MRS Bulletin

Technical Feature

Technical Feature

Semiconductor nanowires: A platform for nanoscience and nanotechnology

Charles M. Liebera1

a1 School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard University;


Advances in nanoscience and nanotechnology critically depend on the development of nanostructures whose properties are controlled during synthesis. We focus on this critical concept using semiconductor nanowires, which provide the capability through design and rational synthesis to realize unprecedented structural and functional complexity in building blocks as a platform material. First, a brief review of the synthesis of complex modulated nanowires in which rational design and synthesis can be used to precisely control composition, structure, and, most recently, structural topology is discussed. Second, the unique functional characteristics emerging from our exquisite control of nanowire materials are illustrated using several selected examples from nanoelectronics and nano-enabled energy. Finally, the remarkable power of nanowire building blocks is further highlighted through their capability to create unprecedented, active electronic interfaces with biological systems. Recent work pushing the limits of both multiplexed extracellular recording at the single-cell level and the first examples of intracellular recording is described, as well as the prospects for truly blurring the distinction between nonliving nanoelectronic and living biological systems.

(Online publication December 14 2011)


This article is based on an edited transcript of the Fred Kavli Distinguished Lectureship in Nanoscience presentation given by Charles M. Lieber (Harvard University) on November 28, 2010 at the Materials Research Society Fall Meeting in Boston. The Kavli Foundation supports scientific research, honors scientific achievement, and promotes public understanding of scientists and their work. Its particular focuses are astrophysics, nanoscience, and neuroscience.