Silicon nanowire device, held by tweezers. This device is coated with billions of tiny nanowires, each measuring a few nanometres (billionths of a metre) in diameter. Silicon nanowires are able to convert temperature gradients into voltages and vice versa. They are also cheaper and easier to produce than other thermoelectric devices. Silicon nanowires could be used to soak up waste heat energy from fossil fuel combustion or from computers, to produce electricity. This device was built by chemist Peidong Yang and his team at the University of California, Berkeley, USA. Photographed in 2008.
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