Although zinc oxide is best known as a strong sunblock, cold remedy, itch reliever and paint pigment, nanotech engineers like it for its photoluminescence (the ability to emit light after absorbing electromagnetic radiation), field emission (the basis for advanced, high-definition flat-panel displays) and piezoelectric properties (stressing or changing shape when electricity is applied and producing electricity when stressed). ZnO nanomaterials may one day be used to improve solar cells, lasers, sensors, ultraviolet light sources, field emission sources and piezoelectric devices.
Copper enters the ZnO nanowires during fabrication. The nanowires—about 50 to 150 nanometers wide and up to 40 micrometers long—are grown on a copper substrate using a chemical vapor deposition process. The copper substrate forms droplets that absorb the zinc and oxygen vapors and deposits the ZnO on the substrate. As the nanowire grows, the zinc pushes the droplets up from the surface, but some copper remains inside the nanowire’s crystal lattice.
In a new paper,* NIST chemists report using a variety of measurement techniques to learn that the ZnO wires contain a surprising amount of copper—between 5 and 15 percent. High-resolution imaging studies of ZnO nanowires reveal that the copper manages to fit into zinc oxide’s regular crystalline structure without disrupting it. “It is in there somewhere,” explains chemist Susie Eustis. Because the copper can be easily detected when you know what to look for, she says, researchers plan to use it to better understand the crystal structure of ZnO nanowires with an eye toward manipulating the nanowires to improve performance. “The copper acts like a smart tag that you put on an animal in the wild to trace where it travels,” says Eustis.
The role copper plays in ZnO nanowires is ambiguous. Published studies differ on whether the copper increases or decreases the nanowires’ photoluminescence. Eustis and colleagues found that the copper in the nanowire increases the output of visible light but at the expense of ultraviolet emission.
In addition to determining the role copper plays in ZnO nanowires, the researchers plan to learn how to grow uniform nanowires that may one day be used in commercial products. This research is part of ongoing studies to find the best methods to determine the concentration and distribution of atoms inside nanostructures.
Evelyn Brown | EurekAlert!
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Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems Holding GmbH about commercial use of a multi-well tissue plate for automated and reliable tissue engineering & drug testing.
MBM ScienceBridge GmbH successfully negotiated a license agreement between University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG) and the biotech company Tissue Systems...
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