Nano-molding can accelerate the discovery of new topological materials

Tin nanowires are nano-cast in an anodic aluminum oxide die. Credits: N. Liu, Y. Xie, G. Liu, S. Sohn, A. Raj, G. Han, B. Wu, J. J. Cha, Z. Liu, and J. Schroers, Phys. Reverend Litt. 124, 036102 (2020); MT Kiani, JJ Cha, APL Articles 10, 080904 (2022).

Nano-molding of topological nanowires could accelerate the discovery of new materials for applications such as quantum computing, microelectronics and clean energy catalysts, according to an article co-authored by Judy Cha, professor of materials science and engineering at Cornell University.

Topological materials are valued for their unique ability to have different properties on their surfaces and edges, and these surface properties can be improved by engineering the materials at the nanoscale. The challenge for scientists is that traditional methods for fabricating nanowires are slow and do not offer a high level of accuracy.

“Theorists have predicted that about a quarter of known inorganic crystals may be topological,” Cha said. “We’re talking about tens of thousands of compounds, so the traditional way of making these crystals is just incompatible in terms of screening them to look for topological materials for specific applications.”

But nano-molding, in which polycrystalline starting materials are pressed into a nano-mold at an elevated temperature to form nanowires, could provide a solution. Writing APL . materialCha and postdoctoral partner Mehrdad Kayani explain that nanoforming offers several advantages over current synthesis methods for nanomaterials.

“In contrast to traditional top-down and bottom-up fabrication methods, the nanoforming process requires minimal optimization of experimental parameters and can operate on a variety of topological compounds, enabling high-throughput fabrication of topological nanowires. The fabricated nanowires are A single crystal that is free from defects and can have aspect ratios above 1,000,” write Cha and Kiani.

Nanomolding has previously been used for metallic material systems, but Cha and her research group are among the first to extend its application to include Topological materials. And while nano-templating, in principle, offers all the features required in a topological nanowire, how and why this method works is still not fully understood—a knowledge gap that the Cha group is working to fill.

Current research projects in Cha’s group include measuring the electrical properties of topological nanowires for comparison with nanowires produced with other techniques, and studying atomic diffusion and mechanical motions of atoms during the forming process. Cha also welcomes collaborators interested in nanowire versions of the vehicles they are looking for.

The search has also been shown in AIP Scilight.

Nanofabrication using nanothermal molding

more information:
Mehrdad T. Kiani et al, Nanoforming of topological nanowires, APL . material (2022). DOI: 10.1063/5.0096400

Ashley Bacon, Molded nanowires for high-throughput screening of topological materials, AIP Scilight (2022). DOI: 10.1063/ 10.0013404

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