Lifetimes of metal nanowires with broken axial symmetry

Lan Gong, J. Bürki, Charles A. Stafford, Daniel L. Stein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present a theoretical approach for understanding the stability of simple metal nanowires, in particular, monovalent metals such as the alkalis and noble metals. Their cross sections are of order 1 nm, so that small perturbations from external (usually thermal) noise can cause large geometrical deformations. The nanowire lifetime is defined as the time required for making a transition into a state with a different cross-sectional geometry. This can be a simple overall change in radius, or a change in the cross-section shape, or both. We develop a stochastic field theoretical model to describe this noise-induced transition process in which the initial and final states correspond to locally stable states on a potential surface derived by solving the Schrödinger equation for the electronic structure of the nanowire numerically. The numerical string method is implemented to determine the optimal transition path governing the lifetime. Using these results, we tabulate the lifetimes of sodium and gold nanowires for several different initial geometries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number035401
JournalPhysical Review B - Condensed Matter and Materials Physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 5 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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