Thinnest Wires Ever Created with an Electron Beam are Only Three Atoms Wide (VIDEO)

First Posted: Apr 29, 2014 08:50 AM EDT

Scientists may have found a way to create some of the thinnest, smallest wires ever made. Using a finely focused electron beam, researchers created flexible metallic wires only three atoms wide. That's one thousandth the width of the microscopic wires used to connect the transistors in today's integrated circuits.

So how exactly did they manage it? The scientists created the tiny wires from a special family of semiconducting materials that naturally form monolayers. Called transition-metal dichalcogenides (TMDCs), these materials are made by combining the metals molybdenum or tungsten with either sulfur or selenium.

Atomic monolayers are actually a subject of interest due to the number of remarkable qualities that they possess. They have strength and flexibility, transparency and high electron mobility. With the discovery of an easy way to create graphene in 2004, these atomic monolayers have become even more of an interest for scientists.

One of the interesting properties of monolayer circuitry is its toughness and flexibility. It's too early to predict exactly what kinds of applications it will produce, but it's possible that this technology could create tablets and television displays that are as thin as a sheet of paper.

Other research groups have already created functioning transistors and flash memory gates out of TMDC materials. The fact that researchers have now learned to make wires provides the ability to interconnect these elements.

In this case, the researchers created the tiny wires by using a scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM) that is capable of focusing a beam of electrons down to a width of half an angstrom, which is about half the size of an atom. This allowed the researchers to create the tiny wires.

The findings were published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Want to learn more about the new tech? Check out the video below, courtesy of YouTube.

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