To build an LED, you need both positively and negatively charged semiconducting materials; and the engineers synthesized zinc oxide (ZnO) nanoscale cylinders that transport positive charges or "holes" – so-called "p-type ZnO nanowires." They are endowed with a supply of positive charge carrying holes that, for years, have been the missing ingredients that prevented engineers from building LEDs from ZnO nanowires. In contrast, making "n-type" ZnO nanowires that carrier negative charges (electrons) has not been a problem. In an LED, when an electron meets a hole, it falls into a lower energy level and releases energy in the form of a photon of light.
Deli Wang, an electrical and computer engineering professor from UCSD's Jacobs School of Engineering, and colleagues at UCSD and Peking University, report synthesis of high quality p-type zinc oxide nanowires in a paper published online by the journal Nano Letters.
"Zinc oxide nanostructures are incredibly well studied because they are so easy to make. Now that we have p-type zinc oxide nanowires, the opportunities for LEDs and beyond are endless," said Wang.
Wang has filed a provisional patent for p-type ZnO nanowires and his lab at UCSD is currently working on a variety of nanoscale applications.
"Zinc oxide is a very good light emitter. Electrically driven zinc oxide single nanowire lasers could serve as high efficiency nanoscale light sources for optical data storage, imaging, and biological and chemical sensing," said Wang.
To make the p-type ZnO nanowires, the engineers doped ZnO crystals with phosphorus using a simple chemical vapor deposition technique that is less expensive than the metal organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) technique often used to synthesize the building blocks of gallium nitride LEDs. Adding phosphorus atoms to the ZnO crystal structure leads to p-type semiconducting materials through the formation of a defect complex that increases the number of holes relative to the number of free electrons.
"Zinc oxide is wide band gap semiconductor and generating p-type doping impurities that provide free holes is very difficult – particularly in nanowires. Bin Xiang in my group worked day and night for more than a year to accomplish this goal," said Wang.
The starting materials and manufacturing costs for ZnO LEDs are far less expensive than those for gallium nitride LEDs. In the future, Wang expects to cut costs even further by making p-type and n-type ZnO nanowires from solution.
For years, researchers have been making electron-abundant n-type ZnO nanowire crystals from zinc and oxygen. Missing oxygen atoms within the regular ZnO crystal structure create relative overabundances of zinc atoms and give the semiconductors their n-type, conductive properties. The lack of accompanying p-type ZnO nanowires, however, has prevented development of a wide range of ZnO nanodevices.
While high quality p-type ZnO nanowires have not previously been reported, groups have demonstrated p-type conduction in ZnO thin films and made ZnO thin film LEDs. Using ZnO nanowires rather than thin films to make LEDs would be less expensive and could lead to more efficient LEDs, Wang explained.
Having both n- and p-type ZnO nanowires – complementary nanowires – could also be useful in a variety of applications including transistors, spintronics, UV detectors, nanogenerators, and microscopy. In spintronics applications, researchers could use p-type ZnO nanowires to make dilute magnetic semiconductors by doping ZnO with magnetic atoms, such as manganese and cobalt, Wang explained.
Transistors that rely on the semiconducting properties of ZnO are also now on the horizon. "P-type doping in nanowires would make complementary ZnO nanowire transistors possible," said Wang.
Daniel Kane | EurekAlert!
Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time
17.10.2017 | University of Maryland
Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging
17.10.2017 | American Association for the Advancement of Science
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
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Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
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Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
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