A PHD student has created the world's thinnest nanowires, three atoms wide, which could help develop paper thin electronic gadgets.
Junhao Lin, who studies at Vanderbilt University and visits Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) as a scientist, made the nanowire from a special family of semiconducting materials that naturally form monolayers.
Called transition-metal dichalcogenides (TMDCs), the materials were made by combining metals molybdenum or tungsten with either sulfur or selenium.
Sokrates Pantelides, a distinguished professor of physics and engineering at the same university, said the technique is an exciting new way to manipulate matter and should give a boost in efforts to create electronic circuits out of atomic monolayers. Monolayers are the thinnest possible form factor for solid objects.
"Junhao took this project and really ran with it," Pantelides added.
Lin said: "This will likely stimulate a huge research interest in monolayer circuit design.
"Because this technique uses electron irradiation, it can in principle be applicable to any kind of electron-based instrument, such as electron-beam lithography."
The new method can also help the development of three-dimensional circuits by stacking monolayers "like Lego blocks" and using electron beams to fabricate the wires that connect the stacked layers.
Junhao's primary microscopy mentor and ORNL Wigner Fellow Wu Zhou said: "Junhao used a scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM) that is capable of focusing a beam of electrons down to a width of half an angstrom (about half the size of an atom) and aims this beam with exquisite precision."