Transformation of bulk alloys to oxide nanowires

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Science  20 Jan 2017:
Vol. 355, Issue 6322, pp. 267-271
DOI: 10.1126/science.aal2239

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Alcohols remove lithium to make nanowires

Many existing routes for making metal and metal oxide nanowires are complex, require harsh solvents, or are not easily scaled up. Lei et al. developed an extraction process to remove lithium from aluminum or magnesium alloys by using alcohol solvents. The resulting highly reactive Al or Mg atoms formed alkoxide nanowires, which could be converted into oxides by high-temperature treatment. The authors used this approach to produce Al2O3 separators that enhanced the safety of lithium batteries.

Science, this issue p. 267


One dimensional (1D) nanostructures offer prospects for enhancing the electrical, thermal, and mechanical properties of a broad range of functional materials and composites, but their synthesis methods are typically elaborate and expensive. We demonstrate a direct transformation of bulk materials into nanowires under ambient conditions without the use of catalysts or any external stimuli. The nanowires form via minimization of strain energy at the boundary of a chemical reaction front. We show the transformation of multimicrometer-sized particles of aluminum or magnesium alloys into alkoxide nanowires of tunable dimensions, which are converted into oxide nanowires upon heating in air. Fabricated separators based on aluminum oxide nanowires enhanced the safety and rate capabilities of lithium-ion batteries. The reported approach allows ultralow-cost scalable synthesis of 1D materials and membranes.

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