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Developing Two-Dimensional Semiconductors

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Researchers at Michigan Technological University have developed a new method for converting metallic old into two-dimensional semiconductors. Using this method, scientists have been able to customize the material on the atomic level on boron nitride nanotubes. This innovation could lead to significant advances in future electronics, as well as quantum computing.

Gold is commonly used in electronic devices, as it has excellent conductive properties. Unfortunately, our devices keep getting smaller and smaller, and scientists now have to explore alternative routes to make technology that is both extremely small, but still incredibly powerful.

It was research into the conductive properties of gold that led scientists to learn that they can take gold and convert it into semiconducting quantum dots. These dots are constructed out of a single layer of atoms, and have a bandgap formed by the quantum confinement. This means that as the materials get small enough to approach the molecular scale, they begin to behave like atoms. As such, the two-dimensional gold quantum dots can be applied to a variety of different electronics, provided they have a bandgap that is tunable on the atomic level.

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“This is a dream nanotechnology. It is a molecular-scale technology tunable by atom with an ideal bandgap in the visible light spectra. There is a lot of promise in electronic and optical devices.”

Yoke Khin Yap, professor of physics at Michigan Tech

Researchers used a scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM) in order to observe the behavior of the atomic-level manipulation of gold quantum dots. This allowed them to study the gold atoms in real time, and determine how they interacted with the surface of boron nitride nanotubes.

During testing, scientists ran a mist of gold over the boron nitride nanotubes. While some of the mist bounced off the nanotubes or stuck to them as multilayered nanoparticles, a certain number of the gold atoms stabilize as they glide along he circumference of the nanotubes. Next, the atoms clump into monolayers of gold quantum dots, ending up in a neatly arranged honey comb. It is this unique combination of materials and structures that allows the gold atoms to operate as effective semiconductors.

Scientists are certain that these new materials present a major step forward for future electronics and quantum computing. Researchers will continue to explore other metal monolayers at the molecular scale that could be used in a variety of emerging technologies.

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