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Book by NASA's Meyyappan Explores 'Revolution' in Inorganic Nanowires

by Editor1 last modified November 18, 2009 - 16:46

One of NASA’s most noted experts on nanotechnology is Dr. M Meyyappan, the Chief Scientist for Exploration Technology at NASA Ames' Center for Nanotechnology. He is the co-author of the soon-to-be-released Inorganic Nanowires: Applications, Properties, and Characterization, which reveals in detail what Meyyappan calls nanotechnology’s “quiet revolution.” talks with Dr. Meyyappan to learn why inorganic nanowires may hold the key to the next wave in large-scale commercialization of nanotechnologies.

Book by NASA's Meyyappan Explores 'Revolution' in Inorganic Nanowires

Meyyappan’s co-author is Dr. Mahendra Sunkara, a Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Louisville.

“In the last 10 years, there’s no doubt that the most exciting nanomaterial has been the carbon nanotube (CNT). Ask anybody. But, in the last few years I’m seeing a quiet revolution driven by inorganic nanowires,” Meyyappan told “For many applications using CNTs, researchers are finding inorganic nanowires that could do the job just as well, if not better,” he added.

In Inorganic Nanowires: Applications, Properties, and Characterization, the authors examine the full lifecycle (from fundamental properties to applications) of today’s most promising non-CNT nanowire materials – silicon, metallic, oxides, nitrides, antimonides and many others. The book also provides detailed examination of properties and characterization of inorganic nanowires to help researchers determine best candidates for a wide range of applications in electronics, optoelectronics, field emission, thermoelectric devices, energy storage, and sensors.

In fact, Meyyappan notes that today, thanks to the work of hundreds of researchers, there are approximately 30 types of inorganic nanowires.

“It’s not just the number of different types, it’s that these nanowires are made from a variety of materials, which provide researchers and industry with some very customizable properties,” Dr. Meyyappan said. This in essence means that the growing variety of nanowires will offer powerful alternatives to CNTs, especially in areas key to large-scale commercialization, such as uniformity, production, design and cost.”

Inorganic nanowires come from all those materials not based on carbon or graphite.

“People are down in the trenches trying to push inorganic nanowire research into a wide array of applications, and I’m a practical guy,” Dr. Meyyappan told “To me bringing technology out of the lab and into useful commercial applications is where the beef really is. So, this book addresses not just properties of inorganic nanowires, but where they might best be put to use.”

In solar cells, for instance, Dr. Meyyappan said he sees evidence that “certain nanowires may provide cheaper and more efficient electronics compared to carbon-based [CNT] electronics. Inorganic nanowires also provide more predictability than CNTs. “

While CNTs maintain an advantage in strength-to-weight ratio and hence in structural applications, inorganic nanowires are opening new options for commercial production efforts in electronics, optoelectronics, sensors and other areas because they offer predictability – a trait not yet available for CNTs, Meyyappan said.

One major problem with using CNTs to meet business goals, Dr. Meyyappan said is “you can’t simply walk into a lab and order the CNT with the properties and characteristics you want. You need to take whatever the lab gives you. Using silicon nanowires, on the other hand, gives you more predictability because silicon itself is more predictable to work with than carbon.”

Inside Inorganic Nanowires
Applications, Properties, and Characterization
Through its 16 chapters, Inorganic Nanowires provide researchers, students and those in applied or commercial applications a valuable guide to the state of nanowires. It addresses the fundamentals, thermodynamics, reaction kinetics, growth mechanisms and applications of all leading types of inorganic nanowires, including: Metallic (Bismuth, Silver, Copper, Nickel and Zinc), Oxides and Nitrides. Further, the volume describes methodologies for growing, testing and moving nanowires from the lab into commercial applications.

The book also provides some ‘recipes’ of sorts, Meyyappan said, as it lays out details of how to prepare inorganic nanowires – from the raw materials, to principles, testing, characterization and even the best way to use them. “ Our goal is to spell out this exciting new area of nanoscale materials and show readers some of the more promising areas of application,“ he told

Meyyappan also says Inorganic Nanowires provides a valuable guide to allow industrial firms to diversify their nanotechnology portfolio beyond CNTs. “Just like a mutual fund manager should diversify his investments, heads of research teams should begin to look at ways they can diversify their nanotechnology investments, and nanowires offers the next promising area where they can hedge their CNT investments.”

The book, according to Meyyappan, is a good resource as a graduate text book: “ I have just used it in a graduate course at Pohong University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) in Korea, known there as the CalTech of Korea, with an interdisciplinary group of students in their IT Convergence Engineering(Nano-Bio-IT convergence) program. It will serve as a good source for nanoscience and technology courses offered by Material Science, Chemistry, Physics and Engineering departments."

Inorganic Nanowires: Applications, Properties, and Characterization also includes

  • Coverage of growth, characterization and properties of various types of nanowires: semiconductors, metals, oxides, phase change materials, nitrides, antimonides, and others
  • An extensive coverage of applications for these nanowires in electronics (memory, logic, data storage…), optoelectronics (lasers, LEDs, detectors, photovoltaic’s, photoelectrochemical solar cells…) field emission, thermoelectric devices, chemical and biosensors
  • Discusses emerging uses for nanowires powders into nanocomposites, solar cells, fuel cells and thin films.
  • Introduces Nanotechnology and defines the evolution of the field and the classification of nanomaterials and inorganic wires
  • A supplementary book for courses on nanomaterials