Professor Andrew Steckl, a leading expert in light-emitting diodes, is intensifying the properties of LEDs by introducing biological materials, specifically salmon DNA.
Electrons move constantly — think of tiny particles with a negative charge and attention deficit disorder. It is through the movement of these electrons that electric current flows and light is created.
Steckl is an Ohio Eminent Scholar in UC’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He believed that if the electrons’ mobility could be manipulated, then new properties could be revealed.
In considering materials to introduce to affect the movement of the electrons, Steckl evaluated the source of materials with an eye to supply, especially materials that do not harm the environment.
“Biological materials have many technologically important qualities — electronic, optical, structural, magnetic,” says Steckl. “But certain materials are hard for to duplicate, such as DNA and proteins.” He also wanted a source that was widely available, would not have to be mined, and was not subject to any organization or country’s monopoly. His answer?
“Salmon sperm is considered a waste product of the fishing industry. It’s thrown away by the ton,” says Steckl with a smile. “It’s natural, renewable and perfectly biodegradable.” While Steckl is currently using DNA from salmon, he thinks that other animal or plant sources might be equally useful. And he points out that for the United States, the green device approach takes advantage of something in which we continue to be a world leader — agriculture.
Steckl is pursuing this research in collaboration with the Air Force Research Laboratory. The research was featured recently in such premier scientific publications as the inaugural issue of naturephotonics and on the cover of Applied Physics Letters.
“The Air Force had already been working with DNA for other applications when they came to us and said, ‘We know that you know how to make devices,’” quotes Steckl. “They also knew that they had a good source of salmon DNA.” It was a match made in heaven.
So began Steckl’s work with BioLEDs, devices that incorporate DNA thin films as electron blocking layers. Most of the devices existing today are based on inorganic materials, such as silicon. In the last decade, researchers have been exploring using naturally occurring materials in devices like diodes and transistors.
“The driving force, of course, is cost: cost to the producer, cost to the consumer and cost to the environment” Steckl points out, “but performance has to follow.”
And what a performance — lights, camera, action!
“DNA has certain optical properties that make it unique,” Steckl says. “It allows improvements in one to two orders of magnitude in terms of efficiency, light, brightness — because we can trap electrons longer.”
When electrons collide with oppositely charged particles, they produce very tiny packets of light called “photons.”
“Some of the electrons rushing by have a chance to say ‘hello,’ and get that photon out before they pass out,” Steckl explains. “The more electrons we can keep around, the more photons we can generate.” That’s where the DNA comes in, thanks to a bunch of salmon.
“DNA serves as a barrier that affects the motion of the electrons,” says Steckl. It allows Steckl and his fellow researcher, the Air Force’s Dr. James Grote, to control the brightness of the light that comes out.
“The story continues,” says Steckl, again smiling. “I’m receiving salmon sperm from researchers around the world wanting to see if their sperm is good enough.” The next step is to now replace some other materials that go into an LED with biomaterials. The long-term goal is be able to make “green” devices that use only natural, renewable and biodegradable materials.
This research was funded by the United States Air Force.
Here we have the “yin” of biological materials in photonic devices. See Steckl’s “yang” research placing electronics in biological materials: UC Engineering Research Widens Possibilities for Electronic Devices: NSF-funded engineering research on microfluidics at the University of Cincinnati widens the possibilities on the horizon for electronic devices.
Wendy Hart Beckman | EurekAlert!
Energy hybrid: Battery meets super capacitor
01.12.2016 | Technische Universität Graz
Tailor-Made Membranes for the Environment
30.11.2016 | Forschungszentrum Jülich
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy