Rensselaer Research ReviewWinter 2008
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Wayne G. Roberge
Researchers at Rensselaer discovered a new method to create “branched” nanorods, as seen in this scanning electron microscope image. Such nanorods could one day enable new nanoscale thermoelectric devices for power generation, as well as nanoscale heat pumps for cooling hot spots in nanoelectronics devices.

Photo Credit: Rensselaer/Ramanath

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The Attractive Properties of Core-Shell Nanorods

Because of their attractive properties, core-shell nanorods are expected to one day enable the development of new nanoscale thermoelectric devices for power generation, as well as nanoscale heat pumps for cooling hot spots in nanoelectronics devices. 

“Our discovery enables the realization of two very important attributes for heat dissipation and power generation from heat,” Ramanath said. “First, the core-shell junctions in the nanorods are conducive for heat removal upon application of an electrical voltage, or generating electrical power from heat. Second, the branched structures open up the possibility of fabricating miniaturized conduits for heat removal alongside nanowire interconnects in future device architectures.”

The researchers discovered that synthesis at high temperatures or with low amounts of the biomolecular surfactant L-glutathonic acid (LGTA) yields branched nanorod structures in highly regulated patterns. In contrast, synthesis at low temperatures or with high levels of LGTA results in straight nanorods without any branching. It is interesting to note that at the point of branching, atoms in the branch resemble a mirror image of the parent crystal – a finding that reinforces Ramanath’s conclusion that LGTA is able to induce branching through atomic-level sculpture. 

“Since LGTA is similar to biological molecules, our discovery could be conceivably used as a starting point to explore the use of proteins and enzymes to atomically sculpt such nanorod architectures through biological processes,” said Ramanath

Results of the study, titled “Surfactant-Directed Synthesis of Branched Bismuth Telluride/Sulfide Core/Shell Nanorods,” were recently published online and will be featured in an upcoming issue of the journal Advanced Materials

The full study may be viewed at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/adma.200702572 

Along with Ramanath and Purkayastha, co-authors of the paper include: Theodorian Borca-Tasciuc, associate professor of mechanical, aerospace and nuclear engineering at Rensselaer; Rensselaer materials science and engineering postdoctoral researcher Huafang Li; Rensselaer graduate students Makala S. Raghuveer and Darshan D. Gandhi; as well as materials science and engineering professor Raju V. Ramanujan, assistant professor Qingyu Yan, and postdoctoral researcher Zhong W. Liu of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. 

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