Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have developed a completely new method of manufacturing nanowires by growing them without requiring a substrate.
This discovery could accelerate the manufacturing of semiconductor nanostructures by factors of thousands, reducing the cost of electronics.
The method involves growing the structures from freely suspended nanoparticles of gold in a flowing gas. These nanoparticles take the place of the substrate from which the semiconductors grow. The growth can be controlled using temperature, time and the size of the gold nanoparticles.
While substrate-based nanowire manufacturing is called epitaxy, the researchers have dubbed their technology “aerotaxy”.
According to the key researcher behind the discovery, Lars Samuelson, Professor of Semiconductor Physics at Lund University, the technology will be ready for commercialisation in two to four years' time.
Professor Samuelson is also preparing a prototype for solar cells, which is expected to be completed in two years.
The researchers expect to later be able to use a series of ovens to modify the nanowires according to growing temperatures, in order to develop variants such as the fundamental p-n diodes used in electronics.
Unlike wafer-based technology used today, the growth process is continuous, and thus cheaper and faster.
The team is currently developing a method to capture the nanowires and make them self-assemble in an ordered manner on a specific surface.