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Nanowires have the potential to revolutionize the technology around us. Measuring just 5-100 nanometers in diameter (a nanometer is a millionth of a millimeter), these tiny, needle-shaped crystalline structures can alter how electricity or light passes through them.

They can emit, concentrate and absorb light and
couldtherefore be used to add optical functionalities to electronic chips. They could, for example, make it possible to generate lasers directly on silicon chips and to integrate single-photon emitters for coding purposes. They could even be applied in solar panels to improve how sunlight is converted into electrical energy.

Up until now, it was impossible to reproduce the process of growing nanowires on silicon semiconductors – there was no way to repeatedly produce homogeneous nanowires in specific positions. But researchers from EPFL's Laboratory of Semiconductor Materials, run by Anna Fontcuberta
i Morral, together with colleagues from MIT and the IOFFE Institute, have come up with a way of growing nanowire networks in a highly controlled and fully reproducible manner. The key was to understand what happens at the onset of nanowire growth, which goes against currently accepted theories. Their work has been published in Nature Communications.

"We think that this discovery will make it possible
torealistically integrate a series of nanowires on silicon substrates," says Fontcuberta i Morral. "Up to now, these nanowires had to be grown individually, and the process couldn't be reproduced."

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Category: Science