The team from Stanford University and the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory manage to create the thinnest electrical wire in the world. It is made of so-called diamondoid, which is a carbon variation known as adamantane. The wire is only three atoms wide. The team is convinced that this electrical wire can be widely used in the industry.
The electrical wire is made of the smallest possible bits of the diamond – cages that contain just 10 carbon atoms. The diamonds are attached to sulfur and copper atoms, which created the basic nanowire building block. Researchers used the fact that the diamonds are attracted to each other thanks to the van der Waals forces. The building blocks then drifted toward each other and attached to the growing tip of the nanowire without external input.
Member of the team, student Fei Hua Li further explains: “Much like LEGO blocks, they only fit together in certain ways that are determined by their size and shape. The copper and sulfur atoms of each building block wound up in the middle, forming the conductive core of the wire, and the bulkier diamondoids wound up on the outside, forming the insulating shell.”
The team was already developed nanowires, by using diamondoids to make one-dimensional nanowires based on cadmium, zinc, iron and silver. Still, this is the first time they developed the smallest possible structure – three atoms wide, with a solid crystalline core. An associate professor at SLAC and Stanford and member of the team says that achieving a ‘solid core’ of a three atom cross section is ideal, as it’s small enough to exhibit unique functionality and yet it can tolerate single defects or strains.
As researchers manage to create nanowire with good electronic properties, they will now focus to use this self-assembly technique with another material such as piezoelectrics. This success is the first step to the development of new kinds of optoelectronic devices and superconducting materials.