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  • Breakthrough for Quantum Computing, Solar Energy

     Japo_Japo updated 2 months, 2 weeks ago 1 Member · 1 Post
  • Japo_Japo

    September 9, 2021 at 4:34 pm

    The organic molecule we’ve paired silicon with is a type of carbon ash called anthracene. It’s basically soot,” said Sean Roberts, a UT Austin assistant professor of chemistry. The paper describes a method for chemically connecting silicon to anthracene, creating a molecular power line that allows energy to transfer between the silicon and ash-like substance. “We now can finely tune this material to react to different wavelengths of light. Imagine, for quantum computing, being able to tweak and optimize a material to turn one blue photon into two red photons or two red photons into one blue. It’s perfect for information storage.”

    For four decades, scientists have hypothesized that pairing silicon with a type of organic material that better absorbs blue and green light efficiently could be the key to improving silicon’s ability to convert light into electricity. But simply layering the two materials never brought about the anticipated “spin-triplet exciton transfer,” a particular type of energy transfer from the carbon-based material to silicon, needed to realize this goal. Roberts and materials scientists at UC Riverside describe how they broke through the impasse with tiny chemical wires that connect silicon nanocrystals to anthracene, producing the predicted energy transfer between them for the first-time.

    The challenge has been getting pairs of excited electrons out of these organic materials and into silicon. It can’t be done just by depositing one on top of the other,” Roberts said. “It takes building a new type of chemical interface between the silicon and this material to allow them to electronically communicate.”

    Roberts and his graduate student Emily Raulerson measured the effect in a specially designed molecule that attaches to a silicon nanocrystal, the innovation of collaborators Ming Lee Tang, Lorenzo Mangolini and Pan Xia of UC Riverside. Using an ultrafast laser, Roberts and Raulerson found that the new molecular wire between the two materials was not only fast, resilient and efficient, it could effectively transfer about 90% of the energy from the nanocrystal to the molecule.

    “We can use this chemistry to create materials that absorb and emit any color of light,” said Raulerson, who says that, with further fine-tuning, similar silicon nanocrystals tethered to a molecule could generate a variety of applications, from battery-less night-vision goggles to new miniature electronics.

    Other highly efficient processes of this sort, called photon up-conversion, previously relied on toxic materials. As the new approach uses exclusively non-toxic materials, it opens the door for applications in human medicine, bioimaging and environmentally sustainable technologies, something that Roberts and fellow UT Austin chemist Michael Rose are working towards.

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