Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Device for capturing signatures uses tiny LEDs created with piezo-phototronic effect

12.08.2013
Your signature in lights

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology want to put your signature up in lights – tiny lights, that is. Using thousands of nanometer-scale wires, the researchers have developed a sensor device that converts mechanical pressure – from a signature or a fingerprint – directly into light signals that can be captured and processed optically.


This schematic shows a device for imaging pressure distribution by the piezo-phototronic effect. The illustration shows a nanowire-LED based pressure sensor array before (a) and after (b) applying a compressive strain. A convex character pattern, such as "ABC," molded on a sapphire substrate, is used to apply the pressure pattern on the top of the indium-tin oxide (ITO) electrode.

Credit: Courtesy of Zhong Lin Wang

The sensor device could provide an artificial sense of touch, offering sensitivity comparable to that of the human skin. Beyond collecting signatures and fingerprints, the technique could also be used in biological imaging and micro-electromechanical (MEMS) systems. Ultimately, it could provide a new approach for human-machine interfaces.

"You can write with your pen and the sensor will optically detect what you write at high resolution and with a very fast response rate," said Zhong Lin Wang, Regents' professor and Hightower Chair in the School of Materials Science and Engineering at Georgia Tech. "This is a new principle for imaging force that uses parallel detection and avoids many of the complications of existing pressure sensors."

Individual zinc oxide (ZnO) nanowires that are part of the device operate as tiny light emitting diodes (LEDS) when placed under strain from the mechanical pressure, allowing the device to provide detailed information about the amount of pressure being applied. Known as piezo-phototronics, the technology – first described by Wang in 2009 – provides a new way to capture information about pressure applied at very high resolution: up to 6,300 dots per inch.

The research was scheduled to be reported August 11 in the journal Nature Photonics. It was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Basic Energy Sciences, the National Science Foundation, and the Knowledge Innovation Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Piezoelectric materials generate a charge polarization when they are placed under strain. The piezo-phototronic devices rely on that physical principle to tune and control the charge transport and recombination by the polarization charges present at the ends of individual nanowires. Grown atop a gallium nitride (GaN) film, the nanowires create pixeled light emitters whose output varies with the pressure, creating an electroluminescent signal that can be integrated with on-chip photonics for data transmission, processing and recording.

"When you have a zinc oxide nanowire under strain, you create a piezoelectric charge at both ends which forms a piezoelectric potential," Wang explained. "The presence of the potential distorts the band structure in the wire, causing electrons to remain in the p-n junction longer and enhancing the efficiency of the LED."

The efficiency increase in the LED is proportional to the strain created. Differences in the amount of strain applied translate to differences in light emitted from the root where the nanowires contact the gallium nitride film.

To fabricate the devices, a low-temperature chemical growth technique is used to create a patterned array of zinc oxide nanowires on a gallium nitride thin film substrate with the c-axis pointing upward. The interfaces between the nanowires and the gallium nitride film form the bottom surfaces of the nanowires. After infiltrating the space between nanowires with a PMMA thermoplastic, oxygen plasma is used to etch away the PMMA enough to expose the tops of the zinc oxide nanowires.

A nickel-gold electrode is then used to form ohmic contact with the bottom gallium-nitride film, and a transparent indium-tin oxide (ITO) film is deposited on the top of the array to serve as a common electrode.

When pressure is applied to the device through handwriting, nanowires are compressed along their axial directions, creating a negative piezo-potential, while uncompressed nanowires have no potential.

The researchers have pressed letters into the top of the device, which produces a corresponding light output from the bottom of the device. This output – which can all be read at the same time – can be processed and transmitted.

The ability to see all of the emitters simultaneously allows the device to provide a quick response. "The response time is fast, and you can read a million pixels in a microsecond," said Wang. "When the light emission is created, it can be detected immediately with the optical fiber."

The nanowires stop emitting light when the pressure is relieved. Switching from one mode to the other takes 90 milliseconds or less, Wang said.

The researchers studied the stability and reproducibility of the sensor array by examining the light emitting intensity of the individual pixels under strain for 25 repetitive on-off cycles. They found that the output fluctuation was approximately five percent, much smaller than the overall level of the signal. The robustness of more than 20,000 pixels was studied.

A spatial resolution of 2.7 microns was recorded from the device samples tested so far. Wang believes the resolution could be improved by reducing the diameter of the nanowires – allowing more nanowires to be grown – and by using a high-temperature fabrication process.

In addition to Wang, the research team also included Caofeng Pan, Lin Dong, Guang Zhu, Simiao Niu, Ruomeng Yo, Qing Yang and Ying Liu, all associated with Georgia Tech. In addition, Pan is associated with the Beijing Institute of Nanoenergy and Nanosystems in the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

This research was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Division of Materials Sciences and Engineering under Award DE-FG02-07ER46394; the National Science Foundation (NSF) under award CMMI-040367; and by the Knowledge Innovation program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences under KJCX2-YW-M13. The opinions and conclusions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the DOE or NSF.

John Toon | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.gatech.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion
16.11.2018 | University of New Hampshire

nachricht NASA keeps watch over space explosions
16.11.2018 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Purdue cancer identity technology makes it easier to find a tumor's 'address'

16.11.2018 | Health and Medicine

Good preparation is half the digestion

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Microscope measures muscle weakness

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>