Research into methods of self-assembly of nanowires in a recent Nature Materials paper demonstrates the potential to stimulate and embed logical electronic elements such as quantum dots ("essentially nanoscale semiconductors") within them which may make it possible to introduce optoelectronic functions right into the production process for nanowires. Via IEEE Spectrum.
From the paper abstract:
Nanowire growth by the vapour–liquid–solid (VLS) process enables a high level of control over nanowire composition, diameter, growth direction, branching and kinking, periodic twinning, and crystal structure. The tremendous impact of VLS-grown nanowires is due to this structural versatility, generating applications ranging from solid-state lighting and single-photon sources to thermoelectric devices. Here, we show that the morphology of these nanostructures can be further tailored by using the liquid droplets that catalyse nanowire growth as a ‘mixing bowl’, in which growth materials are sequentially supplied to nucleate new phases. Growing within the liquid, these phases adopt the shape of faceted nanocrystals that are then incorporated into the nanowires by further growth. We demonstrate this concept by epitaxially incorporating metal silicide nanocrystals into Si nanowires with defect-free interfaces, and discuss how this process can be generalized to create complex nanowire-based heterostructures.
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