Xiangfeng Duan, 26
Transforms nanowires into incredibly small transistors for powerful, flexible computers
Five years after moving from China to Massachusetts, Xiangfeng Duan had earned a PhD from Harvard University in physical chemistry and moved to the forefront of nanotechnology research. Last year he joined Palo Alto, CA-based startup Nanosys as a staff scientist to help create practical technology using semi-conducting nanowires. Duan and his colleagues developed a method for fabricating nanowires two to 100 nanometers in diameter and up to hundreds of micrometers long. They also devised techniques for organizing these nanowires into functional electric circuits. Using these techniques, Duan has built transistors 10 times smaller than conventional ones and has made tiny light-emitting diodes. He has also shown how nanowire arrays can be mounted on flexible substrates, which could lead to foldable or wearable computers. Investors have poured more than $55 million into Nanosis since its founding in 2001, and roughly half the company’s efforts are based on Duan’s research. So the startup’s investors can’t wait to see what Duan will accomplish next using his nanotech bag of tricks.