Engineers may soon be singing, "I'm going to wash that gray right out of my nanowires," thanks to a colorful discovery by a team of researchers from Harvard University and Zena Technologies. In contrast to the somber gray hue of silicon wafers, Kenneth B. Crozier and colleagues demonstrated that individual, vertical silicon nanowires can shine in all colors of the spectrum.
The vibrant display, dependent on the diameter of the individual wires, is even visible to the naked eye. In addition to adding a splash of color to the lab, the finding has potential for use in nanoscale image sensor devices, offering increased efficiency and the ability to detect color without the use of filters.
"It is surprising," says Crozier, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Natural Sciences at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS). "A lot of people are making nanowires, and you really don't think of the color so much. In this vertical configuration you can get very strong color effects, and you can tune them over a range of wavelengths of the visible region. The strong effects can be seen right down to the level of the individual wire."
The finding, published in the March 17, 2011, online edition of Nano Letters, may be the first experimental report that silicon nanowires can take on a variety of colors depending on their diameter and under bright-field illumination. Previous work has shown that nanowires can take on different colors but only by looking at scattered, rather than directly reflected, light.To create the multicolored array of vertical silicon nanowires, the engineers at Harvard and Zena Technologies used a combination of electron beam lithography and inductively coupled plasma reactive ion etching.
"Each nanowire acts as a waveguide, like a nano-sized optical fiber—but an optically absorbing one," explains Crozier. "At short wavelengths there is not much optical coupling to the nanowire. At long wavelengths, the coupling is better, but the properties of the waveguide are such that there is not much absorption. In between, there is a range of wavelengths where the light is coupled to the nanowire and absorbed. This range is determined by the nanowire diameter. We made nanowires with diameters of 90, 100, and 130 nm that appeared red, blue and green, respectively."
To demonstrate the remarkable phenomenon and the relative ease of controlling and positioning the colorful nanowires, the researchers created a nanoscale-sized tribute to Harvard, designing a pattern resembling the engineering school's Veritas seal and spelling out the acronym SEAS in a rainbow of colors.
While the Harvard image closely matched the school's seal, the desired color eluded the engineers.
"We actually wanted to make the seal red rather than blue, but it turned out that the diameter was a little bit wrong," says Crozier.
As even small changes in the radius of a wire can alter the color, the seal turned out to be blue, more suitable for the famous seal of a certain other Ivy League institution.
Fortunately, the technology has other promising applications. The researchers' eventual aim is to use the wires in image sensors. Traditional photodetectors in image sensor devices can gauge the intensity of light but not determine its color without the use of an additional filter, which throws away much of the light, limiting the device's sensitivity.
The researchers hope to address this by fabricating vertical nanowires containing photodetectors above standard photodetectors formed on a silicon wafer. The nanowire and standard photodetectors could each detect a different part of the spectrum of the incident light. By comparing the signals from each, the color could be determined without losing so much of the light.
"With image sensors, every little bit of efficiency counts. Moreover, we even imagine using the colored wires to encode data in a read-only type of information storage," adds Crozier.
The researchers have filed a provisional patent for their work.
Crozier's co-authors included Kwanyong Seo, Paul Steinvurzel, Ethan Schonbrun, Yaping Dan, and Tal Ellenbogen, all from SEAS, and Munib Wober, from Zena Technologies. The study was supported by funding from Zena Technologies and the United States Department of Energy, Office of Science and Basic Energy Sciences. In addition, the research team acknowledges the Center for Nanoscale Systems at Harvard for fabrication work.
Michael Patrick Rutter | EurekAlert!
Researchers pave the way for ionotronic nanodevices
23.02.2017 | Aalto University
Microhotplates for a smart gas sensor
22.02.2017 | Toyohashi University of Technology
In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport
Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...
The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.
The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...
Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...
Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".
Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...
13.02.2017 | Event News
10.02.2017 | Event News
09.02.2017 | Event News
24.02.2017 | Life Sciences
24.02.2017 | Life Sciences
24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News