Atomic-level defects in graphene could be a path forward to smaller and faster electronic devices, according to a study led by researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
With unique properties and potential applications in areas from electronics to biodevices, graphene, which consists of a single sheet of carbon atoms, has been hailed as a rising star in the materials world. Now, an ORNL study published in Nature Nanotechnology suggests that point defects, composed of silicon atoms that replace individual carbon atoms in graphene, could aid attempts to transfer data on an atomic scale by coupling light with electrons.
"In this proof of concept experiment, we have shown that a tiny wire made up of a pair of single silicon atoms in graphene can be used to convert light into an electronic signal, transmit the signal and then convert the signal back into light," said coauthor Juan-Carlos Idrobo, who holds a joint appointment at ORNL and Vanderbilt University.
An ORNL-led team discovered this novel behavior by using aberration-corrected scanning transmission electron microscopy to image the plasmon response, or optical-like signals, of the point defects. The team's analysis found that the silicon atoms act like atomic-sized antennae, enhancing the local surface plasmon response of graphene, and creating a prototypical plasmonic device.
"The idea with plasmonic devices is that they can convert optical signals into electronic signals," Idrobo said. "So you could make really tiny wires, put light in one side of the wire, and that signal will be transformed into collective electron excitations known as plasmons. The plasmons will transmit the signal through the wire, come out the other side and be converted back to light."
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