This Research in Action article was provided to LiveScience in partnership with the National Science Foundation.
Researchers have figured out how to shape nanowires and ultrathin films into new structures with potentially revolutionary properties. This illustration depicts Purdue University’s nano machine shop's ability to shape tiny wires, an advance that represents a possible future manufacturing method for applications ranging from high-speed electronics to solar cells. The new method is called laser shock-induced shaping. The technique works by using a multilayered sandwich structure that has a tiny mold at the bottom. Nanowires were situated directly above the mold, and other materials were layered between the nanowires and a glass cover sheet. Exposing this layered "forming unit" to an ultra-fast pulsing laser causes one of the layers to burn up, generating a downward pressure that forces the nanowires into the mold and changes their shape. The research was supported by NSF.
Editor's Note: Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. See the Research in Action archive.