Just 100 nanometers in diameter, nanowires are often considered one-dimensional. But researchers at Northwestern University have recently reported that individual gallium nitride nanowires show strong piezoelectricity – a type of charge-generation caused by mechanical stress – in three dimensions.
The findings, led by Horacio Espinosa, James N. and Nancy J. Farley Professor in Manufacturing and Entrepreneurship at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, were published online Dec. 22 in Nano Letters.
Gallium nitride (GaN) is among the most technologically relevant semiconducting materials and is ubiquitous today in optoelectronic elements such as blue lasers (hence the blue-ray disc) and light-emitting-diodes (LEDs). More recently, nanogenerators based on GaN nanowires were demonstrated capable of converting mechanical energy (such as biomechanical motion) to electrical energy.
“Although nanowires are one-dimensional nanostructures, some properties – such as piezoelectricity, the linear form of electro-mechanical coupling – are three-dimensional in nature,” Espinosa said. “We thought these nanowires should show piezoelectricity in 3D, and aimed at obtaining all the piezoelectric constants for individual nanowires, similar to the bulk material.”
The findings revealed that individual GaN nanowires as small as 60 nanometers show piezoelectric behavior in 3D up to six times of their bulk counterpart. Since the generated charge scales linearly with piezoelectric constants, this finding implies that nanowires are up to six times more efficient in converting mechanical to electrical energy.
Contact: Megan Fellman firstname.lastname@example.org 847-491-3115 Northwestern University