This isn't a new kind of tooth rotter, but an exotic new breed of nanoribbon and nanoplate semiconductors. Made from silicon telluride, they may go on to be used in the batteries of the future.

The new semiconductors are built up layer-by-layer in a process known as vapor deposition. Temperatures in a furnace are taken high enough for silicon and tellurium to vaporize, some of which settles on a substrate placed within the furnace. The semiconductor then grows up in layers, depending on small tweaks made to the substrate that's placed in the furnace in the first place. The researchers are able to make nanoribbons as small as 50 nanometers in width and about 10 microns long or so-called standing plates. "We see the standing plates a lot," Kristie Koski, one of the researchers, told PhysOrg. "They're half hexagons sitting upright on the substrate. They look a little like a graveyard."

It's thought that the materials, which can forced to take up traces of lithium and magnesium, could be used to make new, 2D electrodes for use in batteries. [Nanoletters via PhysOrg]