How Copper Nanowires Grow and How To Control Their Properties.
Scalable, solution-phase nanostructure synthesis has the promise to produce a wide variety of nanomaterials with novel properties at a cost that is low enough for these materials to be used to solve problems. For example, solution-synthesized metal nanowires are now being used to make low cost, flexible transparent electrodes in touch screens, organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), and solar cells. There has been a tremendous increase in the number of solution-phase syntheses that enable control over the assembly of atoms into nanowires in the last 15 years, but proposed mechanisms for nanowire formation are usually qualitative, and for many syntheses there is little consensus as to how nanowires form. It is often not clear what species is adding to a nanowire growing in solution or what mechanistic step limits its rate of growth. A deeper understanding of nanowire growth is important for efficiently directing the development of nanowire synthesis toward producing a wide variety of nanostructure morphologies for structure-property studies or producing precisely defined nanostructures for a specific application. This Account reviews our progress over the last five years toward understanding how copper nanowires form in solution, how to direct their growth into nanowires with dimensions ideally suited for use in transparent conducting films, and how to use copper nanowires as a template to grow core-shell nanowires. The key advance enabling a better understanding of copper nanowire growth is the first real-time visualization of nanowire growth in solution, enabling the acquisition of nanowire growth kinetics. By measuring the growth rate of individual nanowires as a function of concentration of the reactants and temperature, we show that a growing copper nanowire can be thought of as a microelectrode that is charged with electrons by hydrazine and grows through the diffusion-limited addition of Cu(OH)2(-). This deeper mechanistic understanding, coupled to an understanding of the structure-property relationship of nanowires in transparent conducting films, enabled the production of copper nanowires that can be coated from solution to make films with properties that rival the dominant transparent conductor, indium tin oxide. Finally, we show how copper nanowires can be coated with Zn, Sn, In, Ni, Co, Ag, Au, and Pt to protect them from oxidation or enable their use as transparent electrocatalysts.
Ye, S; Stewart, IE; Chen, Z; Li, B; Rathmell, AR; Wiley, BJ
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