We formulate a global equilibrium model to describe the growth of 1-d nanostructures in the VLS process by including also the chemical tension in addition to the physical tensions. The chemical tension derives from the Gibbs free energy release due to the growth of a crystal layer. The system global equilibrium is attained via the balance of the static physical tensions and the dynamic chemical tension, which allows the system to reach the minimum Gibbs free energy state. The model predicts, and provides conditions for the growth of nanowires of all sizes exceeding a lower thermodynamic limit. The model also predicts the conditions distinguishing the growth of nanaohillocks from nanowires. © 2007 Materials Research Society.