Gundogdu, along with Dr. David Aspnes, Distinguished University Professor of Physics, and doctoral candidate Bilal Gokce, used optical spectroscopy along with a method of analysis pioneered by Aspnes and former graduate student Dr. Eric Adles that allowed them to examine what was happening on the atomic scale when strain was applied to a silicon crystal.
"Strain has been used to affect overall chemistry for a long time," Aspnes says. "However, no one has previously observed differences in chemical behavior of individual bonds as a result of applying strain in one direction. Now that we can see what is actually happening, we'll gain a much better understanding of its impact on the atomic scale, and ideally be able to put it to use."
According to Gundogdu, "Application of even small amount of strain in one direction increases the chemical reactivity of bonds in certain direction, which in turn causes structural changes. Up to now, strain has been applied when devices are made. But by looking at the effect on the individual atomic bonds we now know that we can influence chemical reactions in a particular direction, which in principle allows us to be more selective in the manufacturing process."
"While we are able to exert some directional control over reaction rates, there remains much that we still don't understand," Aspnes adds. "Continuing research will allow us to identify the relevant hidden variables, and silicon-based devices may become more efficient as a result."