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The wet chemical synthesis of nanostructures has many crucial advantages over high-temperature methods, including simplicity, low-cost, and deposition on almost arbitrary substrates. Nevertheless, the density-controlled solution growth of nanowires still remains a challenge, especially at the low densities (e.g. 1 to 10 nanowires/100 μm2) required, as an example, for intracellular analyses. Here, we demonstrate the solution-growth of ZnO nanowires using a thin chromium film as a nucleation inhibitor and Au size-selected nanoclusters (SSNCs) as catalytic particles for which the density and, in contrast with previous reports, size can be accurately controlled. Our results also provide evidence that the enhanced ZnO hetero-nucleation is dominated by Au SSNCs catalysis rather than by layer adaptation. The proposed approach only uses low temperatures (≤70 °C) and is therefore suitable for any substrate, including printed circuit boards (PCBs) and the plastic substrates which are routinely used for cell cultures. As a proof-of-concept we report the density-controlled synthesis of ZnO nanowires on flexible PCBs, thus opening the way to assembling compact intracellular-analysis systems, including nanowires, electronics, and microfluidics, on a single substrate.
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