Researchers from Australia have used lasers to generate tiny explosions in silicon to eventually create new materials which might revolutionise the world of electronics. The paper has been published in the journal Nature Communications.
From left to right: Professor Jim Williams, Professor Andrei Rode & Associate Professor Jodie Bradbury with the complex electron diffraction patterns. Photo credits: Stuart Hay, ANU.
Scientists from the Australian National University (ANU) have discovered that they can use microexplosions to synthesise new exotic materials from silicon.
They exposed a silicon base covered with silicon dioxide to laser beams, thereby creating microexplosions that resulted in new materials which are believed to be the potential raw materials to develop a new generation of electronic devices such as solar cells and light sensors.
“We’ve created two entirely new crystal arrangements, or phases, in silicon and seen indications of potentially four more. Theory predicts these materials could have very interesting electronic properties, such as an altered band gap, and possibly superconductivity if properly doped,” said Andrei Rode from ANU’s Research School of Physics and Engineering (RSPE) in a statement.
The materials that were thus synthesised had structures that repeated every 12, 16 or 32 atoms. This normally causes great instability, but the molecules are so minute that they can cool and solidify fast enough to avoid degradation. These structures have proved to be long-lasting: they remained intact for more than a year.
“The microexplosions change silicon’s simplicity to much more complex structures, which opens up possibility for unusual and unexpected properties,” said Jim Williams, one of the researchers from the team.
Using lasers to trigger the microexplosions proved to be extremely effective since they could generate more pressure than other traditional techniques. Furthermore, this methodology is much less expensive, and more productive, as thousands of the small structures can be synthesised in less than a second.
The findings of the research are believed to have great potential. Silicon has the properties of both a conductor and an insulator which makes it ideal for electronic processors. The researchers think that the new materials might be used to create chips that can reach even greater ranges of applications.