Nanotechnology Made Clear

Nanowires: Uses and Applications of Nanowires

The properties of nanowires have caused researchers and companies to consider using this material in several fields.

Nanowires Applications in Energy

Researchers at MIT have developed a solar cell using graphene coated with zinc oxide nanowires. The researchers believe that this method will allow the production of low cost flexible solar cells at high enough efficiency to be competive.

Sensors powered by electricity generated by piezoelectric zinc oxide nanowires. This could allow small, self contained, sensors powered by mechanical energy such as tides or wind

Researchers are using a method called Aerotaxy to grow semiconducting nanowires on gold nanoparticles. They plan to use self assembly techniques to align the nanowires on a substrate; forming a solar cell or other electrical devices. The gold nanoparticles replace the silicon substrate on which conventional semiconductor based solar cells are built.

Researchers at the Nies Bohr Institute have determined that sunlight can be concentrated in nanowires due to a resonance effect. This effect can result in more efficient solar cells, allowing more of the energy from the sun to be converted to electricity.

Using light absorbing nanowires embedded in a flexible polymer film is another method being developed to produce low cost flexible solar panels.

Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley have demonstrated an inexpensive process for making solar cells. These solar cells are composed of cadmium sulfide nanowires coated with copper sulfide.

Researchers at Stanford University have grown silicon nanowires on a stainless steel substrate and demonstrated that batteries using these anodes could have up to 10 times the power density of conventional lithium ion batteries. Using silicon nanowires, instead of bulk silicon fixes a problem of the silicon cracking, that has been seen on electrodes using bulk silicon. The cracking is caused because the silicon swells it absorbs lithium ions while being recharged, and contracts as the battery is discharged and the lithium ions leave the silicon. However the researchers found that while the silicon nanowires swell as lithium ions are absorbed during discharge of the battery and contract as the lithium ions leave during recharge of the battery the nanowires do not crack, unlike anodes that used bulk silicon.

Nanowire Applications in the Enviroment

Using silver chloride nanowires as a photocatalysis to decompose organic molecules in polluted water.

Using an electrified filter composed of silver nanowires, carbon nanotubes and cotton to kill bacteria in water.

Using nanowire mats to absorb oil spil

Nanowire Applications in Electronics

Using electrodes made from nanowires that would enable flat panel displays to be flexible as well as thinner than current flat panel displays.

Using nanowires to build transistors without p-n junctions.

Using nanowires made of an alloy of iron and nickel to create dense memory devices. By applying a current magnetized sections along the length of the wire. As the magnetized sections move along the wire, the data is read by a stationary sensor. This method is called race track memory.

Using silver nanowires embedded in a polymer to make conductive layers that can flex, without damaging the conductor.

Sensors using zinc oxide nano-wire detection elements capable of detecting a range of chemical vapors.

Compiled by Earl Boysen of Hawk's Perch Technical Writing, LLC and UnderstandingNano.com. You can find him on Google+.

 

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