A new nano machine shop that shapes nanowires and ultra-thin films could represent a future manufacturing method for tiny structures with potentially revolutionary properties.
According to a statement, the structures might be tuned for applications ranging from high-speed electronics to solar cells and may have greater strength and unusual traits such as ultra-high magnetism and plasmonic resonance, which could lead to improved optics, computers and electronics.
The researchers used their technique to stamp nano- and micro-gears, form circular shapes out of graphene and change the shape of silver nanowires, said Gary Cheng, an associate professor of industrial engineering at Purdue University.
‘We do this shaping at room temperature and atmospheric pressure, like a nano machine shop,’ said Cheng, who is working with doctoral students Ji Li, Yiliang Liao, Ting-Fung Chung and Sergey Suslov and physics professor Yong P Chen.
Graphene and nanowires have numerous potential applications. However, technologies are needed to tailor them for specific uses. The new method, called laser shock-induced shaping, makes it possible to tune nanowires by altering electrical and optoelectrical properties that are critical for electronic components.
The researchers have also shown how laser shock-induced shaping can be used to change the properties of graphene, a step toward harnessing the material for electronic applications.
The technique works by using a multi-layered sandwich structure that has a tiny mould at the bottom.
Nanowires were situated directly above the mould, and other materials were layered between the nanowires and a glass cover sheet. Exposing this layered forming unit to an ultra-fast pulsing laser causes one of the layers to burn up, generating a downward pressure that forces the nanowires into the mould and changes their shape.
‘The process could be scaled up for an industrial roll-to-roll manufacturing process by changing laser beam size and scanning speed,’ Cheng said. ‘The laser shock-induced shaping approach is fast and low-cost.’
Part of the research, funded by the National Science Foundation, was carried out in a specialised clean room at the Birck Nanotechnology Center in Purdue’s Discovery Park.
Findings were detailed in research papers published in the journal Nano Letters.