Washington, November 14 : IBM and Purdue University researchers say that future computers and consumer electronics may be based on tiny structures called silicon nanowires, as they form the same way every time.
Eric Stach, an assistant professor of materials engineering at Purdue University, has revealed that the research team watched nucleation of silicon nanowires, i.e. how they begin to form before growing into wires, with the aid of an instrument called a transmission electron microscope.
The work was conducted at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York, and at Purdue's Birck Nanotechnology Center in the university's Discovery Park.
"What's unusual about this work is that we are looking at these things on an extremely small scale. The three major findings are that you can see that the nucleation process on this small scale is highly repeatable, that you can measure and predict when it's going to occur, and that those two facts together give you a sense that you could confidently design systems to manufacture these nanowires for electronics," Stach said.
Reporting their findings in the journal Science, the researchers claimed that theirs was the first study to make such precise measurements of the nucleation process in nanowires.
Stach said: "The implication is that if you are trying to create electronic devices based on these technologies, you could actually predict when things are going to start their crystal growth process. You can see that it's going to happen the same way every time, and thus that there is some potential for doing things in a repeatable fashion in electronics manufacturing."
Though the study focused on silicon nanowires, the researchers said that the same findings could be applied to manufacturing nanowires made of other semiconducting materials.
The research was conducted using an IBM microscope. The researchers also are extending the observations using a transmission electron microscope at the Birck Nanotechnology Center to look at smaller nanoparticles.