Electrically Functional Nanostructures


Simon O. Lumsdon Particle Science and Technology, DuPont Central Research and Development

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The use of nanoparticles in advanced technological applications has surged because of their unusual properties, such as enormous surface-to-volume ratio, specific interactions, and confinement effects on the nanoscale. Most of the present practical applications use the nanoparticles as suspensions, material fillers, and in coatings. As knowledge and complexity in nanoscience and nanotechnology progress, nanoparticle assemblies are expected to find use in more complex photonic and electronic devices on the microscale. In this article, we will focus on methods for the assembly of nanoparticles suspended in liquids into electrically functional devices and will present examples of such assemblies and their potential applications. First, nanoparticle assemblies can work as simple electrical conductors, transmitting currents on chips and in liquids to make microscopic circuits. More complex functions can be realized by utilizing the nonlinear properties of such nanoparticle conductors in the fabrication of sensors, photocells, light-emitting diodes, electronic elements, and quantum electronics. Electrical functionality can also be imparted by modulating the properties of the nanoparticle assemblies via electrical fields and using the response for the manipulation of currents and light in displays and for transport and mechanical actuation on the microscale.