Nanowires, which measure about one-billionth of a meter, can be created either by paring down larger elements or by starting at the atomic level and building up. An example of top-down building is how nanoscale fiber-optic wires are made from sapphire. First, a specialist wraps a heated sapphire rod in cables and stretches it to nano-thinness.
Alternatively, scientists can pass a regular fiber-optic cable through a tiny furnace made of a sapphire tube and stretch it. Or they can use a "flame brush" -- a tiny flame stays lit under the wire while it is stretched. Nanowires also can be "grown;" this is considered a bottom-up approach. Another approach uses silicon wafers to arrange the wires and press them against a synthetic rubber to form a stamp. This "print" of gold nanowires can then be transferred to another surface [source: Nature Nanotechnology].
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