Peidong Yang, 32
Assembles nanowires that could revolutionize lasers and computers
University of California, Berkeley
IF NANOELECTRONICS is ever to fulfill its promise of supplying vastly smaller and more powerful computers, researchers will need to invent the right materials. No one knows what those will be, but University of California, Berkeley, assistant chemistry professor Peidong Yang believes inorganic nanowires offer tantalizing possibilities .Such wires are only a few nanometers in diameter, but they can be several micrometers long; Yang says those dimensions make them “naturals” for integrating nanoelectronics with larger-scale devices. Using a light-emitting nanowire, Yang has built a tiny laser, an invention that could revolutionize ultradense data storage. He has also used a combination of semiconducting materials to form single nanowires that could act as tiny light-emitting diodes, and has made nanowires that show promise as highly efficient thermoelectric materials for converting heat into electricity. Still, Yang acknowledges that challenges remain before these creations yield commercial devices. Chief among them, he says, is finding ways to assemble millions of nanowires into a desired device. Yang is pursuing several research projects to achieve just that.