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Method eases nanowire manipulation

Wendy C. Crone

Wendy C. Crone (large image)

Two nanowires

The group grew two nanowires (pictured) to have three segments. Smooth segments on either end are nickel, while the center segment is an oxidized bronze alloy and appears rough. (large image)

Maneuvering macro-scale material samples with a tweezers can be difficult enough, but for researchers who study at the nanoscale, moving materials easily into a particular position can be nearly impossible.


Now a simple solution developed by an interdisciplinary group of faculty and students will enable researchers to get a handle — literally — on manipulating nanowires.


Assistant Professor Wendy Crone, chemistry PhD student Anne Bentley, Chemistry Professor Art Ellis, and materials science and engineering master's student Jeremy Trethewey attached nickel "handles," or caps, onto the ends of their nanowires. Using magnetic fields, they can easily position the wires to test their mechanical properties.


Nanowire bridging two nickel stripes

Detailed image of a nanowire bridging two nickel stripes (large image)

Initially, the group tried manipulating the wires with electric currents, she says, but those efforts were only moderately successful. "What we wanted to do was something fairly simple," says Crone. "We wanted to place nanowires across a trench, image where the nanowires were located, and take a nanoindenter and indent the center of individual nanowires, pushing them down into the center of the trench to look at their mechanical response."


The magnetic manipulation technique they developed enables researchers to work with large number of wires simultaneously, she says. In addition, they could put the nickel handles onto almost any material they can deposit into a porous-membrane template. And they could use the technique to create circuitry, devices and structures out of small-scale materials such as nanowires. "What's nice about the technique we developed is that it is very versatile," she says.