Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Materials science

Phase-shifters magnified

Some solids naturally fluctuate between two structural forms; now researchers have followed such a transformation directly at atomic resolution in a copper sulphide nanorod. Understanding this process at the atomic scale might lead to the rational design of novel materials that exploit such transformations, such as memory-storage materials.

Haimei Zheng and Paul Alivisatos at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California, and their colleagues used high-resolution transmission electron microscopy to watch copper sulphide nanorods oscillate between two solid-phase structures when heated by an electron beam. The transition occurred just above room temperature, and the material oscillated a number of times before its structure reached a stable configuration. Defects in the material strongly influenced the dynamics of the transformation by partitioning the nanorod into different domains, each with a different oscillation frequency.

Science 333, 206–209 (2011)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Phase-shifters magnified. Nature 475, 143 (2011).

Download citation


Quick links