Scientists have developed what they believe is the thinnest-possible semiconductor, a new class of nanoscale materials made in sheets only three atoms thick.
The University of Washington researchers have demonstrated that two of these single-layer semiconductor materials can be connected in an atomically seamless fashion known as a heterojunction. This result could be the basis for next-generation flexible and transparent computing, better light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, and solar technologies.
“Heterojunctions are fundamental elements of electronic and photonic devices,” said senior author Xiaodong Xu, a UW assistant professor of materials science and engineering and of physics. “Our experimental demonstration of such junctions between two-dimensional materials should enable new kinds of transistors, LEDs, nanolasers, and solar cells to be developed for highly integrated electronic and optical circuits within a single atomic plane.”
The researchers discovered that two flat semiconductor materials can be connected edge-to-edge with crystalline perfection. They worked with two single-layer, or monolayer, materials – molybdenum diselenide and tungsten diselenide – that have very similar structures, which was key to creating the composite two-dimensional semiconductor.
Collaborators from the electron microscopy center at the University of Warwick in England found that all the atoms in both materials formed a single honeycomb lattice structure, without any distortions or discontinuities. This provides the strongest possible link between two single-layer materials, necessary for flexible devices. Within the same family of materials it is feasible that researchers could bond other pairs together in the same way.
The researchers created the junctions in a small furnace at the UW. First, they inserted a powder mixture of the two materials into a chamber heated to 900 degrees Celsius (1,652 F). Hydrogen gas was then passed through the chamber and the evaporated atoms from one of the materials were carried toward a cooler region of the tube and deposited as single-layer crystals in the shape of triangles.
After a while, evaporated atoms from the second material then attached to the edges of the triangle to create a seamless semiconducting heterojunction.
“This is a scalable technique,” said Sanfeng Wu, a UW doctoral student in physics and one of the lead authors. “Because the materials have different properties, they evaporate and separate at different times automatically. The second material forms around the first triangle that just previously formed. That’s why these lattices are so beautifully connected.”
With a larger furnace, it would be possible to mass-produce sheets of these semiconductor heterostructures, the researchers said. On a small scale, it takes about five minutes to grow the crystals, with up to two hours of heating and cooling time.
“We are very excited about the new science and engineering opportunities provided by these novel structures,” said senior author David Cobden, a UW professor of physics. “In the future, combinations of two-dimensional materials may be integrated together in this way to form all kinds of interesting electronic structures such as in-plane quantum wells and quantum wires, superlattices, fully functioning transistors, and even complete electronic circuits.”
The researchers have already demonstrated that the junction interacts with light much more strongly than the rest of the monolayer, which is encouraging for optoelectric and photonic applications like solar cells.
Other co-authors are Chunming Huang and Pasqual Rivera of UW physics; Ana Sanchez, Richard Beanland and Jonathan Peters at the University of Warwick; Jason Ross of UW materials science and engineering; and Wang Yao, a theoretical physicist of the University of Hong Kong.
This research was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the UW’s Clean Energy Institute, the Research Grant Council of Hong Kong, the University Grants Committee of Hong Kong, the Croucher Foundation, the Science City Research Alliance and the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s Strategic Development Fund.
For more information, contact Wu at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grant numbers: U.S. Department of Energy, Basic Energy Sciences, Materials Sciences and Engineering Division (DE-SC0008145) (DE-SC0002197).
Michelle Ma | Eurek Alert!
High-temperature electronics? That's hot
07.12.2018 | Purdue University
Researchers develop method to transfer entire 2D circuits to any smooth surface
07.12.2018 | Rice University
What if a sensor sensing a thing could be part of the thing itself? Rice University engineers believe they have a two-dimensional solution to do just that.
Rice engineers led by materials scientists Pulickel Ajayan and Jun Lou have developed a method to make atom-flat sensors that seamlessly integrate with devices...
Scientists at the University of Stuttgart and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) succeed in important further development on the way to quantum Computers.
Quantum computers one day should be able to solve certain computing problems much faster than a classical computer. One of the most promising approaches is...
New Project SNAPSTER: Novel luminescent materials by encapsulating phosphorescent metal clusters with organic liquid crystals
Nowadays energy conversion in lighting and optoelectronic devices requires the use of rare earth oxides.
Scientists have discovered the first synthetic material that becomes thicker - at the molecular level - as it is stretched.
Researchers led by Dr Devesh Mistry from the University of Leeds discovered a new non-porous material that has unique and inherent "auxetic" stretching...
Scientists from the Theory Department of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science (CFEL) in Hamburg have shown through theoretical calculations and computer simulations that the force between electrons and lattice distortions in an atomically thin two-dimensional superconductor can be controlled with virtual photons. This could aid the development of new superconductors for energy-saving devices and many other technical applications.
The vacuum is not empty. It may sound like magic to laypeople but it has occupied physicists since the birth of quantum mechanics.
06.12.2018 | Event News
03.12.2018 | Event News
28.11.2018 | Event News
07.12.2018 | Life Sciences
07.12.2018 | Materials Sciences
07.12.2018 | Physics and Astronomy