Quantum Dots May Become the New Silicon Wafer

First Posted: Feb 26, 2016 08:58 AM EST

Could quantum dots become the new silicon wafer? Just as the single-crystal silicon wafer forever changed the nature of communication 60 years ago, quantum dot solids could do the same.

In this latest study, researchers fashioned two-dimensional superstructures out of single-crystal building blocks. Through a pair of chemical processes, the lead-selenium nanocrystals are synthesized into larger crystals. These are then fused together to form atomically coherent square superlattices.

The difference between these and previous crystalline structures is the atomic coherence of each 5-nanometer crystal. They're not connected by a substance between each crystal; instead, they're connected to each other. The electrical properties of these superstructures potentially are superior to existing semiconductor nanocrystals, with anticipated applications in energy absorption and light emission.

"As far as level of perfection, in terms of making the building blocks and connecting them into these superstructures, that is probably as far as you can push it," said Tobias Hanrath, one of the researchers, in a news release.

With that said, more work needs to be done to take the finding from the lab to society. While the superlattice is superior to ligand-connected nanoncrystal solids, it still has multiple sources of disorder due to the fact that all nanocrystals are not identical.

"It's the equivalent of saying, 'Now we've made a really large single-crystal wafer of silicon, and you can do good things with it," said Hanrath. "That's the good part, but the potentially bad part of it is, we now have a better understanding that if you wanted to improve on our results, those challenges are going to be really, really difficult."

The findings are published in the journal Nature Materials.

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