A University of Illinois research team developed a new method of soldering gaps in atomically small wires. The more flexible transistor technology, carbon nanotube wires, shows promise in replacing silicon devices.

The connection between the nanotubes is highly resistive. The resistance results in heat pooling at the junctions between the tubes, providing researchers with the right conditions to “solder” the connections.

The solder material reacts with heat to deposit metal across the junctions. Once the current runs through, the deposited metal reduces the junction resistance, effectively stopping the energy loss.

In 2013, the University of Illinois engineers used a vacuum chamber to apply a gaseous chemical and metallize the junctions. The new, simpler technique applies a thin layer of solution, made from compounds that contain the metal needed to solder the junctions together.

The next step for the team is to start looking at compounds for the junctions that help to further amplify the current.