One of the great problems in physics is the detection of electromagnetic radiation – that is, light – which lies outside the small range of wavelengths that the human eye can see. Think X-rays, for example, or radio waves.
Now, researchers have discovered a way to use existing semiconductors to detect a far wider range of light than is now possible, well into the infrared range. The team hopes to use the technology in detectors, obviously, but also in improved solar cells that could absorb infrared light as well as the sun's visible rays.
"This technology will also allow dual or multiband detectors to be developed, which could be used to reduce false positives in identifying, for example, toxic gases," said Unil Perera, a Regents' Professor of Physics at Georgia State University. Perera leads the Optoelectronics Research Laboratory, where fellow author and postdoctoral fellow Yan-Feng Lao is also a member. The research team also included scientists from the University of Leeds in England and Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China.
To understand the team's breakthrough, it's important to understand how semiconductors work. Basically, a semiconductor is exactly what its name implies – a material that will conduct an electromagnetic current, but not always. An external energy source must be used to get those electrons moving.
But infrared light doesn't carry a lot of energy, and won't cause many semiconductors to react. And without a reaction, there's nothing to detect.
Until now, the only solution would have been to find a semiconductor material that would respond to long-wavelength, low-energy light like the infrared spectrum.
But instead, the researchers worked around the problem by adding another light source to their device. The extra light source primes the semiconductor with energy, like running hot water over a jar lid to loosen it. When a low-energy, long-wavelength beam comes along, it pushes the material over the top, causing a detectable reaction.
The new and improved device can detect wavelengths up to at least the 55 micrometer range, whereas before the same detector could only see wavelengths of about 4 micrometers. The team has run simulations showing that a refined version of the device could detect wavelengths up to 100 micrometers long.
Edmund Linfield, professor of terahertz electronics at the University of Leeds, whose team built the patterned semiconductors used in the new technique, said, "This is a really exciting breakthrough and opens up the opportunity to explore a wide range of new device concepts including more efficient photovoltaics and photodetectors."
Perera and Lao have filed a U.S. patent application for their detector design.
"Tunable hot-carrier photodetection beyond the band-gap spectral limit" by Yan-Feng Lao, A.G. Unil Perera, L.H. Li, S.P. Khanna, E.H. Linfield and H.C. Liu is in the May issue of Nature Photonics.
The work was supported by the U.S. Army Research Office, the U.S. National Science Foundation, the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and the European Research Council Advanced Grant "TOSCA."
Ann Claycombe | Eurek Alert!
New welding process joins dissimilar sheets better
28.09.2016 | Technologie Lizenz-Büro (TLB) der Baden-Württembergischen Hochschulen GmbH
Cooling buildings with solar heat
26.09.2016 | FIZ Karlsruhe – Leibniz-Institut für Informationsinfrastruktur GmbH
Heavy construction machinery is the focus of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s latest advance in additive manufacturing research. With industry partners and university students, ORNL researchers are designing and producing the world’s first 3D printed excavator, a prototype that will leverage large-scale AM technologies and explore the feasibility of printing with metal alloys.
Increasing the size and speed of metal-based 3D printing techniques, using low-cost alloys like steel and aluminum, could create new industrial applications...
Friction stir welding is a still-young and thus often unfamiliar pressure welding process for joining flat components and semi-finished components made of light metals.
Scientists at the University of Stuttgart have now developed two new process variants that will considerably expand the areas of application for friction stir welding.
Technologie-Lizenz-Büro (TLB) GmbH supports the University of Stuttgart in patenting and marketing its innovations.
Friction stir welding is a still-young and thus often unfamiliar pressure welding process for joining flat components and semi-finished components made of...
Optical quantum computers can revolutionize computer technology. A team of researchers led by scientists from Münster University and KIT now succeeded in putting a quantum optical experimental set-up onto a chip. In doing so, they have met one of the requirements for making it possible to use photonic circuits for optical quantum computers.
Optical quantum computers are what people are pinning their hopes on for tomorrow’s computer technology – whether for tap-proof data encryption, ultrafast...
The Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP has been developing various applications for OLED microdisplays based on organic semiconductors. By integrating the capabilities of an image sensor directly into the microdisplay, eye movements can be recorded by the smart glasses and utilized for guidance and control functions, as one example. The new design will be debuted at Augmented World Expo Europe (AWE) in Berlin at Booth B25, October 18th – 19th.
“Augmented-reality” and “wearables” have become terms we encounter almost daily. Both can make daily life a little simpler and provide valuable assistance for...
With the help of artificial intelligence, chemists from the University of Basel in Switzerland have computed the characteristics of about two million crystals made up of four chemical elements. The researchers were able to identify 90 previously unknown thermodynamically stable crystals that can be regarded as new materials. They report on their findings in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.
Elpasolite is a glassy, transparent, shiny and soft mineral with a cubic crystal structure. First discovered in El Paso County (Colorado, USA), it can also be...
30.09.2016 | Event News
29.09.2016 | Event News
28.09.2016 | Event News
30.09.2016 | Materials Sciences
30.09.2016 | Earth Sciences
30.09.2016 | Life Sciences