The next generation of electronic devices based on 3D topological insulators will be developed from advanced functional nanostructures and heterostructures. Toward this goal, single-crystalline nanowires offer interesting opportunities for new developments due to the strong quantum confinement of spin-helical surface Dirac fermions and to the possibility to realize core-shell lateral nanostructures adapted to the control of the electro-chemical potential at the interface with a topological insulator. Here, we review the specific transport properties of 3D topological insulator quantum wires and the influence of disorder. Having a large energy quantization, weakly-coupled Dirac surface modes are prone to quasi-ballistic transport, with some analogies to carbon nanotubes but with spin-textured quantum states weakly coupled by non-magnetic disorder. Due to a small interaction with their environment, these surface modes are good candidates to realize novel quantum spintronic devices, spanning from ballistic spin conductors to localized spin filters. A specific topological mode also holds promises to control chiral edge states and Majorana bound states in truly 1D quantum wires, being tunable with a magnetic field or an electrical gate. Challenges toward these goals are briefly discussed, as well as the need for novel functional heterostructures.
Part of the book: Heterojunctions and Nanostructures