Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Black Phosphorus Is New ‘Wonder Material’ for Improving Optical Communication

04.03.2015

Phosphorus, a highly reactive element commonly found in match heads, tracer bullets, and fertilizers, can be turned into a stable crystalline form known as black phosphorus. In a new study, researchers from the University of Minnesota used an ultrathin black phosphorus film—only 20 layers of atoms—to demonstrate high-speed data communication on nanoscale optical circuits.

The devices showed vast improvement in efficiency over comparable devices using the earlier “wonder material” graphene.


College of Science and Engineering

This illustration shows the high performance photodetector which uses few layer black phosphorus (red atoms) to sense light in the waveguide (green material). Graphene (gray atoms) is also used to tune the performance.

The work by University of Minnesota Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Professors Mo Li and Steven Koester and graduate students Nathan Youngblood and Che Chen was published today in Nature Photonics—a leading journal in the field of optics and photonics.

As consumers demand electronic devices that are faster and smaller, electronics makers cram more processor cores on a single chip, but getting all those processors to communicate with each other has been a key challenge for researchers. The goal is to find materials that will allow high-speed, on-chip communication using light.

While the existence of black phosphorus has been known for more than a century, only in the past year has its potential as a semiconductor been realized. Due to its unique properties, black phosphorus can be used to detect light very effectively, making it desirable for optical applications. For the first time, the University of Minnesota team created intricate optical circuits in silicon and then laid thin flakes of black phosphorus over these structures using facilities at the University’s Minnesota Nano Center.

“After the discovery of graphene, new two-dimensional materials continue to emerge with novel optoelectronic properties,” said Professor Li, who led the research team. “Because these materials are two-dimensional, it makes perfect sense to place them on chips with flat optical integrated circuits to allow maximal interaction with light and optimally utilize their novel properties.”

The University of Minnesota team demonstrated that the performance of the black phosphorus photodetectors even rivals that of comparable devices made of germanium—considered the gold standard in on-chip photodetection. Germanium, however, is difficult to grow on silicon optical circuits, while black phosphorus and other two-dimensional materials can be grown separately and transferred onto any material, making them much more versatile.

The team also showed that the devices could be used for real-world applications by sending high-speed optical data over fibers and recovering it using the black phosphorus photodetectors. The group demonstrated data speeds up to three billion bits per second, which is equivalent to downloading a typical HD movie in about 30 seconds.

“Even though we have already demonstrated high speed operation with our devices, we expect higher transfer rates through further optimization,” said Nathan Youngblood, the lead author of the study. “Since we are the first to demonstrate a high speed photodetector using black phosphorus, more work still needs to be done to determine the theoretical limits for a fully optimized device.”

Bridging the gap

While black phosphorus has much in common with graphene—another two-dimensional material—the materials have significant differences, the most important of which is the existence of an energy gap, often referred to as a “band gap.”

Materials with a band gap, known as “semiconductors,” are a special group of materials that only conduct electricity when the electrons in that material absorb enough energy for them to “jump” the band gap. This energy can be provided through heat, light, and other means.

While graphene has proven useful for a wide variety of applications, its main limitation is its lack of a band gap. This means that graphene always conducts a significant amount of electricity, and this “leakage” makes graphene devices inefficient. In essence, the device is “on” and leaking electricity all the time.

Black phosphorus, on the other hand, has a widely-tunable band gap that varies depending on how many layers are stacked together. This means that black phosphorus can be tuned to absorb light in the visible range but also in the infrared. This large degree of tunability makes black phosphorus a unique material that can be used for a wide range of applications—from chemical sensing to optical communication.

Additionally, black phosphorus is a so-called “direct-band” semiconductor, meaning it has the potential to efficiently convert electrical signals back into light. Combined with its high performance photodetection abilities, black phosphorus could also be used to generate light in an optical circuit, making it a one-stop solution for on-chip optical communication.

“It is really exciting to think of a single material that can be used to send and receive data optically and is not limited to a specific substrate or wavelength,” Youngblood said. “This could have huge potential for high-speed communication between CPU cores which is a bottleneck in computing industry right now.”

Fast growing potential

The past several years have seen a flurry of two-dimensional material discoveries, first with graphene, more recently with transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) such as molybdenum disulphide (MoS2), and now black phosphorus. All of the previous two-dimensional materials have serious trade offs, but black phosphorus provides the “best of both worlds” with a tunable band gap and high-speed capability.

“Black phosphorus is an extremely versatile material,” said Professor Steven Koester, who contributed to the project. “It makes great transistors and photodetectors, and has the potential for light emission and other novel devices, making it an ideal platform for a new type of adaptable electronics technology.”

The University of Minnesota research was funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the National Science Foundation.

Contact Information
Rhonda Zurn
College of Science and Engineering
rzurn@umn.edu
612-626-7959

Lacey Nygard
University News Service
ljnygard@umn.edu
612-625-0552

Rhonda Zurn | newswise
Further information:
http://www.umn.edu

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk
20.01.2017 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Polymerforschung IAP

nachricht Treated carbon pulls radioactive elements from water
20.01.2017 | Rice University

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>