Unisex connector

A new type of chemical connector based on hybrid inorganic/organicnanowire forests has been invented by researchers in the US. Theconnector can be miniaturized to nanoscale dimensions without losingits binding properties - something that is impossible with other suchdevices.

Conventional connectors, such as buttons, Velcro and zips, typicallyrely on mechanical interactions and mate interlocking to joincomponents together. In contrast, the new nanowire (NW) connectors,developed by Ali Javey and Ron Fearing of the University of Californiaat Berkeley, utilize chemical interactions. Not only can these devicesbe reduced to nanoscale dimensions without losing their sticking power,they also have identical mates, which makes them "unisex". This is incontrast to conventional connector technologies and makes it easier tointegrate them in a variety of applications.

Conventional adhesives, such as glue, tapes and synthetic gecko, alsoexploit chemical interactions that can readily be scaled down. Theproblem here, however, is that these adhesives are designed to bind toany surface rather than just specific sites, as is required forconnector applications. "The challenge in our project was to developconnectors that utilize chemical interactions that are highly scalableand yet achieve selective binding," Javey told nanotechweb.org. "The NW connectors technology addresses this challenge by using a novel nanofibrillar system."

The team, which includes researchers from the Lawrence BerkeleyNational Lab, employed germanium NW forests measuring around 20-30 nmin diameter and 30 µm in length as the backbone of the chemicalconnectors to make the nanofibrillar structures. Thanks to their highYoung's modulus, the structures do not collapse or aggregate. Theresearchers also deposited a polymer shell onto the surface of the NWsto improve adhesion strength.

Source: nanotechweb.orgAdded: 20 May 2009