Nature of communication was revolutionized 60 years ago with the single-crystal silicon wafer, making physicists from Cornell University to think the same feat can be achieved again with the quantum dot solids – crystals made out of crystals.
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In a study titled "Charge transport and localization in atomically coherent quantum dot solids" and published in the journal Nature Materials, Tobias Hanrath, associate professor in the Robert Frederick Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and graduate student Kevin Whitham, led the research team.
The team created two-dimensional superstructures out of single-crystal building blocks in the process of their experiment, and they explored chemical procedures to synthesize lead-selenium nanocrystals into larger crystals which were ultimately fused together to create atomically-shaped square superlattices.
One of the major variance between these new superstructures and the older crystalline structures is the atomic coherence of each 5-nanometer crystal – where a nanometer is one-billionth of a meter. They are connected to each other and not by any substance between each crystal; making the electrical properties of the superstructures more superior to previous semiconductor nanocrystals, and able to be used for light emission and energy absorption.
"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," Hanrath said, referring to the atomic-scale precision of the process.
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This work made use of the Cornell Center for Materials Research, which is supported by the National Science Foundation through its Materials Research Science and Engineering Center program. X-ray scattering was conducted at the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source, which is supported by the NSF and the National Institutes of Health.