Electronic connections made with strands of zirconium tritelluride (ZrTe3) nanoribbons can sustain a current density 50 times greater than conventional copper interconnects. Conventional metals are polycrystalline, with grain boundaries and surface roughness that scatter electrons. Quasi-one-dimensional materials such as ZrTe3 consist of single-crystal atomic chains in one direction, therefore no grain boundaries, which engineers believe is the reason for the high current density.

In principle, such quasi-1D materials could be grown directly into nanowires with a cross-section that corresponds to an individual atomic thread, or chain. This is an important development since as developers miniaturize devices, the internal interconnects between parts must become proportionately smaller.

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Microscopy image of an electronic device made with 1D ZrTe3 nanoribbons. The nanoribbon channel is indicated in green color. The metal contacts are shown in yellow color. Note than owing to the nanometer scale thickness the yellow metal contacts appear to be under the green channel while in reality they are on top. Pseudo-colors were used for clarity to show the nanoribbon and contacts. (Image Credit: University of California, Riverside)