In the journal Advanced Functional Materials, a research team reports they have synthesized nanowires made from vanadium oxide and lead.
And these nanowires perform a rare trick: when exposed to an applied voltage near room temperature, the wires transform from insulators that are resistant to carrying electricity to metals that more readily conduct electricity.
Each of these two states—insulator and metal—could stand for a 0 or 1 in the binary code that computers use to encode information, or for the “on” and “off” states that the machines use to make calculations.
The ability to electrically switch these nanomaterials between the on and off state repeatedly and at faster speeds makes them useful for computing,” says study co-author Sambandamurthy Ganapathy, an associate professor of physics at the University at Buffalo.
“Silicon computing technology is running up against some fundamental road blocks, including switching speeds,” adds Sarbajit Banerjee, another co-author and an associate professor of chemistry. “The voltage-induced phase transition in the material we created provides a way to make that switch at a higher speed.”
As with other nanomaterials, the health and environmental impacts of the nanowires would have to be investigated before their widespread use, especially since they contain lead, Banerjee cautioned.