In the ongoing world of nanotechnology, innovation is highly valued. Moreover, because it's an industry that relies on materials that have to be artificially created on a microscopic scale, there is ample room for innovation in cost-efficient techniques. Enter Hongyou Fan, a researcher at Sandia National Laboratories, who has received accolades from industry experts for his recently published paper in Nature Communications. In it, he details a distinct method for creating nanostructures that shun the accepted but complex use of chemicals and embraces basic physics. As Phys.org elaborates:
"The pressure, delivered by two diamond plates tightened by four screws to any controlled setting, shepherds silver nanospheres into any desired volume. Propinquity creates conditions that produce nanorods, nanowires and nanosheets at chosen thicknesses and lengths rather than the one-size-fits-all output of a chemical process, with no environmentally harmful residues."
If those principles are to be followed, Fan's research has hit all three checkmarks. Instead of complex chemicals, which not only require time and skill to use, but maintenance and storing as well, Fan has simplified the process to using old fashioned embossing techniques. Yes, it's never cheap when one of the components are diamonds, but that beats hazardous, chemical by-products any day. Using this method also provides the opportunity to customize the type of structure, an automatic upgrade in quality over chemical methods. Finally, though the novelty means it's unrefined, the long-term cost-efficiency of safer ingredients and a template that can be easily made in a generic factory setting is sure to draw interest.
The next step in products will be semi-conducters, and Fan's team is working to develop them as well. If his work catches on, it could translate into a less expensive way for more investors to jump into a technology only beginning to show its true potential.
Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.