Stanford sees the light with nanowire mesh

A new technique for producing nanowire meshes using the power of light could open up a range of applications including transparent solar panel coatings.

Nanowires are being developed as a vital component for quantum computing – the smallest ever silicon nanowire is in the works. However, there are other applications for nanowires in mesh form.

One of the problems with creating the electrically conductive meshes is that conventional production methods can damage the nanowires. To achieve the criss-cross pattern of a mesh it’s necessary to apply heat or pressure, and this can cause havoc with the nanowires.

By shining a light over the wires, you can create a hotspot precisely where the wires are in contact, meaning that they fuse without ruining the rest of the quantum patchwork.

This essentially stops the wires from getting damaged, as well as the underlying material which the annowires can then be attached to.

The production method is apparently quicker and more efficient than traditional methods, as well as creating stronger and more conductive meshes.

Most interestingly though, it opens up a range of further applications, with the potential to be stretched over flexible devices.

The researchers at Stanford Univeristy – where work into artificial skin based on nanowires has been conducted in the past – demonstrated the method by spraying a cling-film like material with silver nanoparticles.  They found that their method left a thin layer of nanowires that appeared fully transparent.

The researcher reckon that this could lead to applications such as covering windows with a see-through solar cell that could simultaneously reduce the glare for those inside.

Touchscreens applied to thin and flexible materials could also be possible, should the method work at a commercial level.