The formation of helical nanowires—nanosprings—of boron carbide have been observed and a growth mechanism, based on the work of adhesion of the metal catalyst and the tip of the nanowire, developed. The model demonstrates that the asymmetry necessary for helical growth is introduced when the following conditions are met:
(1) The radius of the droplet is larger than the radius of the nanowire, and
(2) The center of mass of the metal droplet is displaced laterally from the central axis of the nanowire.
Furthermore, this model indicates that only amorphous nanowires will exhibit this unique form of growth and that in monocrystalline nanowires it is the crystal structure that inhibits helical growth. High-resolution transmission electron microscopy and electron diffraction has been used to compare the structure of both amorphous and crystalline nanowires.