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Research project leads to high profile double

1 December 2006

Joint research project leads to high profile double

A team of New Zealand researchers has achieved a rare double with new research results being published in two top international physics journals this month.

The results stem from a joint project looking at nanoclusters and their use in tiny electronic devices and is part of work being undertaken by researchers at Industrial Research, Victoria University of Wellington, University of Canterbury and Christchurch-based Nano Cluster Devices Ltd.

The team’s papers were published in November in the world’s two most prestigious physics journals, Physical Review Letters and Applied Physics Letters, containing new findings from the collaborative work.

The paper in Physical Review Letters describes a fundamental understanding of the way tiny particles, often called nanoclusters, behave when they are fired at a solid surface. The Applied Physics Letters article shows how this understanding can be exploited to fabricate electronic devices comprising wires which are 1000 times thinner than a human hair.

“This is a high profile double. It’s very rare to get papers appearing in both of the world’s top physics journals so close together,” according to Dr Shaun Hendy of Industrial Research.

The team of researchers conducted computer simulations of more than 30,000 individual nanocluster collisions to find out what happens to bouncing particles which are nanoscale in size.

The simulations showed that nanoclusters, although they are much stickier than their macroscopic counterparts, can still bounce off surfaces if the conditions are right. In fact, if the velocity of the nanoparticles is tuned correctly, the researchers found that the nanoparticles will bounce off parts of a surface that are flat, yet stick to parts of a surface that have been pre-patterned.

Nanoscale electronic devices can then be assembled by pre-patterning surfaces and depositing nanoparticles at the right velocity. Interestingly, the computer simulations showed that this bounce-stick behaviour can occur at both low velocities, resulting in elastic collisions, and at high velocities, leading to very inelastic collisions.

“The publication of our results in these international journals illustrates the high quality of the science behind our nanotechnology development programme,” said Dr Simon Brown of Nano Cluster Devices Ltd. “Our new understanding of the cluster bouncing process has allowed us to develop new tools for assembly of nanoelectronic devices. Patent applications are already filed.”

The collaborative research project is funded by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology. The team of researchers are all part of the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials for Nanotechnology, a Centre of Research Excellence. The team acknowledged the importance of the funding and the MacDiarmid Institute in providing the infrastructure for their work.

ENDS

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