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Chemistry and Physics of Nanowires

The following article is based on the Outstanding Young Investigator Award presentation given by Peidong Yang of the University of California, Berkeley, on April 14, 2004, at the Materials Research Society Spring Meeting in San Francisco.Yang was cited for “innovative synthesis of a broad range of nanowires and nanowireheterostructure materials, and the discovery of optically induced lasing in individual nanowire devices.” One-dimensional nanostructures are of both fundamental and technological interest.They not only exhibit interesting electronic and optical properties associated with their low dimensionality and the quantum confinement effect, but they also represent critical components in potential nanoscale devices. In this article, the vapor–liquid–solid crystal growth mechanism will be briefly introduced for the general synthesis of nanowires of different compositions, sizes, and orientation. Unique properties, including light-emission and thermoelectricity, will be discussed. In addition to the recent extensive studies on “single-component” nanowires, of increasing importance is incorporating different interfaces and controlling doping profiles within individual single-crystalline nanowires. Epitaxial growth plays a significant role in fabricating such nanowire heterostructures. Recent research on superlattice nanowires and other nanostructures with horizontal junctions will be presented. The implication of these heterojunction nanowires in light-emission and energy conversion will be discussed. Ways to assemble these one-dimensional nanostructures will also be presented.