The technique, which is the first of its kind to use high-pressure chemistry for making well-developed films and wires of this particular kind of silicon semiconductor, will help scientists to make more-efficient and more-flexible optical fibers. The findings, by an international team led by John Badding, a professor of chemistry at Penn State University, will be published in a future print edition of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Badding explained that hydrogenated amorphous silicon -- a noncrystalline form of silicon -- is ideal for applications such as solar cells. Hydrogenated amorphous silicon also would be useful for the light-guiding cores of optical fibers; however, depositing the silicon compound into an optical fiber -- which is thinner than the width of a human hair -- presents a challenge. "Traditionally, hydrogenated amorphous silicon is created using an expensive laboratory device known as a plasma reactor," Badding explained. "Such a reactor begins with a precursor called silane -- a silicon-hydrogen compound. Our goal was not only to find a simpler way to create hydrogenated amorphous silicon using silane, but also to use it in the development of an optical fiber."
Because traditional, low-pressure chemistry techniques cannot be used for depositing hydrogenated amorphous silicon into a fiber, the team had to find another approach. "While the low-pressure plasma reactor technique works well enough for depositing hydrogenated amorphous silicon onto a surface to make solar cells, it does not allow the silane precursor molecules to be pushed into the long, thin holes in an optical fiber," said Pier J. A. Sazio of the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom and one of the team's leaders. "The trick was to develop a high-pressure technique that could force the molecules of silane all the way down into the fiber and then also convert them to amorphous hydrogenated silicon. The high-pressure chemistry technique is unique in allowing the silane to decompose into the useful hydrogenated form of amorphous silicon, rather than the much less-useful non-hydrogenated form that otherwise would form without a plasma reactor. Using pressure in this way is very practical because the optical fibers are so small."
Optical fibers with a non-crystalline form of silicon have many applications. For example, such fibers could be used in telecommunications devices, or even to change laser light into different infrared wavelengths. Infrared light could be used to improve surgical techniques, military countermeasure devices, or chemical-sensing tools, such as those that detect pollutants or environmental toxins. The team members also hope that their research will be used to improve existing solar-cell technology. "What's most exciting about our research is that, for the first time, optical fibers with hydrogenated amorphous silicon are possible; however, our technique also reduces certain production costs, so there's no reason it could not help in the manufacture of less-expensive solar cells, as well," Badding said.
In addition to Badding and Sazio, other members of the research team include Neil F. Baril, Rongrui He, Todd D. Day, Justin R. Sparks, Banafsheh Keshavarzi, Mahesh Krishna-murthi, Ali Borhan, and Venkatraman Gopalan of Penn State; and Anna C. Peacock and Noel Healy of the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom.
Funding for this research comes from the National Science Foundation, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and the Royal Academy of Engineering.
[ Katrina Voss ]CONTACTS
Barbara Kennedy | EurekAlert!
To proliferate or not to proliferate
21.03.2019 | Max-Planck-Institut für molekulare Zellbiologie und Genetik
Discovery of a Primordial Metabolism in Microbes
21.03.2019 | Leibniz-Institut DSMZ-Deutsche Sammlung von Mikroorganismen und Zellkulturen GmbH
Nano- and microtechnology are promising candidates not only for medical applications such as drug delivery but also for the creation of little robots or flexible integrated sensors. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) have created magnetic microparticles, with a newly developed method, that could pave the way for building micro-motors or guiding drugs in the human body to a target, like a tumor. The preparation of such structures as well as their remote-control can be regulated using magnetic fields and therefore can find application in an array of domains.
The magnetic properties of a material control how this material responds to the presence of a magnetic field. Iron oxide is the main component of rust but also...
Due to the special arrangement of its molecules, a new coating made of corn starch is able to repair small scratches by itself through heat: The cross-linking via ring-shaped molecules makes the material mobile, so that it compensates for the scratches and these disappear again.
Superficial micro-scratches on the car body or on other high-gloss surfaces are harmless, but annoying. Especially in the luxury segment such surfaces are...
The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.
A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...
Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.
"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...
New research group at the University of Jena combines theory and experiment to demonstrate for the first time certain physical processes in a quantum vacuum
For most people, a vacuum is an empty space. Quantum physics, on the other hand, assumes that even in this lowest-energy state, particles and antiparticles...
11.03.2019 | Event News
01.03.2019 | Event News
28.02.2019 | Event News
21.03.2019 | Life Sciences
21.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
21.03.2019 | HANNOVER MESSE