PerspectiveMaterials Science

Nanosprings Take Shape

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Science  09 Sep 2005:
Vol. 309, Issue 5741, pp. 1683-1684
DOI: 10.1126/science.1118125

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Nanosprings made of piezoelectric materials that change shape in response to applied electric voltage would be of great value in nanotechnology as actuators and sensors. In his Perspective, Korgel discusses results reported in the same issue by Gao et al. in which crystalline zinc oxide nanosprings have been fabricated with appreciable yield. An unusual mechanism appears to create the coiling: A superlattice defect structure within the material causes the lattice to rotate into a helical shape. The mechanical properties were measured, and future studies will probe the piezoelectric properties of these structures. Moreover, the superlattice rotation mechanism may lend itself to nanospring formation in other materials.