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Nanowires that spring into action

By Paul Grad |

A group of Singapore researchers have reported a new approach to induce the coiling of prefabricated gold nanowires (AuNWs) inside polymer shells, leading to structures resembling torsion springs. In contrast to gas-phase methods that require high temperatures and are limited to non-metallic nanomaterials, the transformation of straight wires into circular rings takes place in a colloidal solution by modulating the contraction of encapsulating shells made of polystyrene-block-poly(acrylic acid) (PSPAA). Professor Bengang Xing and his colleagues at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (www.ntu.edu.sg) encapsulate the gold nanowires in a polymer container called a micelle. The solvent around the micelle is then changed causing it to shrink. Each micelle containes a single coil of 5 to 10 loops. The induced coiling in the stressed AuNWs stores elastic energy, which is released when the nanosprings spontaneously uncoil upon removal or swelling of the polymer shells. Xing says the ultrafine AuNWs could serve as molecular-scale interconnections for the construction of nanoelectronic devices for use in sensors, piezoelectronics, or memory chips. The AuNWs could also serve as a platform to catalyze some organic reactions. By…
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