Irish research leads to nanowire breakthrough

22 Aug 2016

Nanowires image via Wikimedia Commons

The construction of nanowires could prove remarkably different in future after researchers in Ireland found a simpler process to produce germanium-tin variants, with smartphone manufacturing one area that may benefit from the discovery.

Nanowires feature in a growing number of modern devices, with everything from wearables to smartphones all relying on what are, essentially, minute versions of regular wires.

Typically one-thousandth the thickness of a human hair, developing newer, faster, more conducive materials to make nanowires is a constant struggle.

Future Human

However, AMBER (Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research), a materials science centre hosted at Trinity College Dublin and funded by Science Foundation Ireland, may have pushed science on a good bit with its latest discovery.


“In the field of electronics and optics, manipulation of nanoscale structures should lead to more energy-efficient phones and computers,” said Prof Justin Holmes, an investigator at AMBER.

He was speaking after the team he works with published a paper in Nature detailing its fabrication of highly-crystalline, germanium-tin nanowires.

The nanowires were grown from a simple, cheap and scalable gas-phase process employing a unique combination of chemical reactions developed by Holmes and co.

“Current mobile devices based on existing technology are energy inefficient, due to high power consumption and the dissipation of a large amount of heat, leading to wasteful battery usage or the requirement for elaborate cooling systems,” said Holmes.

These nanowires could lead to vastly improved power efficiency “due to the unique electrical properties of germanium-tin’, according to AMBER”.

“This is a significant advancement in the field of nanostructure research and opens up new possibilities for the development of future technologies,” said Holmes.

The AMBER team are currently in collaboration with industrial partners to demonstrate the commercial viability of nanowire-based energy-efficient electronic and optical devices within a five-year timeframe.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic