Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Germanium


Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are tantalizing candidates for semiconductor electronics because of their exceptional charge transport properties and one-dimensional electrostatics. Ballistic transport approaching the quantum conductance limit of 2G 0 = 4e (2)/h has been achieved in field-effect transistors (FETs) containing one CNT. However, constraints in CNT sorting, processing, alignment, and contacts give rise to nonidealities when CNTs are implemented in densely packed parallel arrays such as those needed for technology, resulting in a conductance per CNT far from 2G 0. The consequence has been that, whereas CNTs are ultimately expected to yield FETs that are more conductive than conventional semiconductors, CNTs, instead, have underperformed channel materials, such as Si, by sixfold or more. We report quasi-ballistic CNT array FETs at a density of 47 CNTs μm(-1), fabricated through a combination of CNT purification, solution-based assembly, and CNT treatment. The conductance is as high as 0.46 G 0 per CNT. In parallel, the conductance of the arrays reaches 1.7 mS μm(-1), which is seven times higher than the previous state-of-the-art CNT array FETs made by other methods. The saturated on-state current density is as high as 900 μA μm(-1) and is similar to or exceeds that of Si FETs when compared at and equivalent gate oxide thickness and at the same off-state current density. The on-state current density exceeds that of GaAs FETs as well. This breakthrough in CNT array performance is a critical advance toward the exploitation of CNTs in logic, high-speed communications, and other semiconductor electronics technologies.

Concepts: Electric charge, Carbon, Integrated circuit, Semiconductor, Silicon, Transistor, Carbon nanotube, Germanium


Combining carbon nanotubes (CNTs), graphene or conducting polymers with conventional silicon wafers leads to promising solar cell architectures with rapidly improved power conversion efficiency until recently. Here, we report CNT-Si junction solar cells with efficiencies reaching 15% by coating a TiO(2) antireflection layer and doping CNTs with oxidative chemicals, under air mass (AM 1.5) illumination at a calibrated intensity of 100 mW/cm(2) and an active device area of 15 mm(2). The TiO(2) layer significantly inhibits light reflectance from the Si surface, resulting in much enhanced short-circuit current (by 30%) and external quantum efficiency. Our method is simple, well-controlled, and very effective in boosting the performance of CNT-Si solar cells.

Concepts: Light, Carbon, Solar cell, Energy conversion, Energy conversion efficiency, Germanium, P-n junction


The control of nuclear spin polarization is important to the design of materials and algorithms for spin-based quantum computing and spintronics. Towards that end, it would be convenient to control the sign and magnitude of nuclear polarization as a function of position within the host lattice. Here we show that, by exploiting different mechanisms for electron-nuclear interaction in the optical pumping process, we are able to control and image the sign of the nuclear polarization as a function of distance from an irradiated GaAs surface. This control is achieved using a crafted combination of light helicity, intensity and wavelength, and is further tuned via use of NMR pulse sequences. These results demonstrate all-optical creation of micron scale, rewritable patterns of positive and negative nuclear polarization in a bulk semiconductor without the need for ferromagnets, lithographic patterning techniques, or quantum-confined structures.

Concepts: Electron, Optics, Spin, Light, Nuclear magnetic resonance, Gallium arsenide, Germanium, Spintronics


The success of silicon as a dominant semiconductor technology has been enabled by its moderate band gap (1.1 eV), permitting low-voltage operation at reduced leakage current, and the existence of SiO2 as a high-quality “native” insulator. In contrast, other mainstream semiconductors lack stable oxides and must rely on deposited insulators, presenting numerous compatibility challenges. We demonstrate that layered two-dimensional (2D) semiconductors HfSe2 and ZrSe2 have band gaps of 0.9 to 1.2 eV (bulk to monolayer) and technologically desirable “high-κ” native dielectrics HfO2 and ZrO2, respectively. We use spectroscopic and computational studies to elucidate their electronic band structure and then fabricate air-stable transistors down to three-layer thickness with careful processing and dielectric encapsulation. Electronic measurements reveal promising performance (on/off ratio > 10(6); on current, ~30 μA/μm), with native oxides reducing the effects of interfacial traps. These are the first 2D materials to demonstrate technologically relevant properties of silicon, in addition to unique compatibility with high-κ dielectrics, and scaling benefits from their atomically thin nature.

Concepts: Electron, Semiconductor, Silicon, Germanium, Electronic band structure, Band gap, Dielectric, Valence band


We describe the development of solar water-splitting cells comprising earth-abundant elements that operate in near-neutral pH conditions, both with and without connecting wires. The cells consist of a triple junction, amorphous silicon photovoltaic interfaced to hydrogen- and oxygen-evolving catalysts made from an alloy of earth-abundant metals and a cobalt|borate catalyst, respectively. The devices described here carry out the solar-driven water-splitting reaction at efficiencies of 4.7% for a wired configuration and 2.5% for a wireless configuration when illuminated with 1 sun (100 milliwatts per square centimeter) of air mass 1.5 simulated sunlight. Fuel-forming catalysts interfaced with light-harvesting semiconductors afford a pathway to direct solar-to-fuels conversion that captures many of the basic functional elements of a leaf.

Concepts: Ultraviolet, Chemical reaction, Sun, Hydrogen, Solid, Solar cell, Germanium, Amorphous silicon


A remarkable feature of modern silicon electronics is its ability to remain physically invariant, almost indefinitely for practical purposes. Although this characteristic is a hallmark of applications of integrated circuits that exist today, there might be opportunities for systems that offer the opposite behavior, such as implantable devices that function for medically useful time frames but then completely disappear via resorption by the body. We report a set of materials, manufacturing schemes, device components, and theoretical design tools for a silicon-based complementary metal oxide semiconductor (CMOS) technology that has this type of transient behavior, together with integrated sensors, actuators, power supply systems, and wireless control strategies. An implantable transient device that acts as a programmable nonantibiotic bacteriocide provides a system-level example.

Concepts: Oxygen, Engineering, Integrated circuit, Semiconductor device, Transistor, Germanium, CMOS, Logic gate


Control over morphology and crystallinity of metal halide perovskite films is of key importance to enable high-performance optoelectronics. However, this remains particularly challenging for solution-printed devices due to the complex crystallization kinetics of semiconductor materials within dynamic flow of inks. Here we report a simple yet effective meniscus-assisted solution printing (MASP) strategy to yield large-grained dense perovskite film with good crystallization and preferred orientation. Intriguingly, the outward convective flow triggered by fast solvent evaporation at the edge of the meniscus ink imparts the transport of perovskite solutes, thus facilitating the growth of micrometre-scale perovskite grains. The growth kinetics of perovskite crystals is scrutinized by in situ optical microscopy tracking to understand the crystallization mechanism. The perovskite films produced by MASP exhibit excellent optoelectronic properties with efficiencies approaching 20% in planar perovskite solar cells. This robust MASP strategy may in principle be easily extended to craft other solution-printed perovskite-based optoelectronics.

Concepts: Semiconductor, Solar cell, Wafer, Germanium, Photodiode, Diode, Band gap, P-n junction


A low temperature chemical vapor deposition (CVD) growth of Ge nanowires using Ga as seed material is demonstrated. The structural and chemical analysis reveals the homogeneous incorporation of ~3.5 at% Ga in the Ge NWs. The Ga-containing Ge nanowires behave like metallic conductors with resistivity values down to ~300 µΩcm due to Ga hyperdoping with electronic contributions of one third of the incorporated Ga atoms. This is the highest conduction values observed by in situ doping of group IV nanowires reported to date. This work demonstrates that Ga is both an efficient seed material at low temperatures for Ge nanowire growth and an effective dopant rendering the semiconductor into a metal-like conductor.

Concepts: Electrical conductor, Chemistry, Semiconductor, Silicon, Solar cell, Chemical vapor deposition, Germanium, Electrical conductivity


Dye-sensitized solar cells based on titanium dioxide (TiO(2)) are promising low-cost alternatives to conventional solid-state photovoltaic devices based on materials such as Si, CdTe and CuIn(1-x)Ga(x)Se(2) (refs 1, 2). Despite offering relatively high conversion efficiencies for solar energy, typical dye-sensitized solar cells suffer from durability problems that result from their use of organic liquid electrolytes containing the iodide/tri-iodide redox couple, which causes serious problems such as electrode corrosion and electrolyte leakage. Replacements for iodine-based liquid electrolytes have been extensively studied, but the efficiencies of the resulting devices remain low. Here we show that the solution-processable p-type direct bandgap semiconductor CsSnI(3) can be used for hole conduction in lieu of a liquid electrolyte. The resulting solid-state dye-sensitized solar cells consist of CsSnI(2.95)F(0.05) doped with SnF(2), nanoporous TiO(2) and the dye N719, and show conversion efficiencies of up to 10.2 per cent (8.51 per cent with a mask). With a bandgap of 1.3 electronvolts, CsSnI(3) enhances visible light absorption on the red side of the spectrum to outperform the typical dye-sensitized solar cells in this spectral region.

Concepts: Electrochemistry, Semiconductor, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Titanium dioxide, Electrolyte, Dye-sensitized solar cell, Germanium


Silicon nanowire and nanopore arrays promise to reduce manufacturing costs and increase the power conversion efficiency of photovoltaic devices. So far, however, photovoltaic cells based on nanostructured silicon exhibit lower power conversion efficiencies than conventional cells due to the enhanced photocarrier recombination associated with the nanostructures. Here, we identify and separately measure surface recombination and Auger recombination in wafer-based nanostructured silicon solar cells. By identifying the regimes of junction doping concentration in which each mechanism dominates, we were able to design and fabricate an independently confirmed 18.2%-efficient nanostructured ‘black-silicon’ cell that does not need the antireflection coating layer(s) normally required to reach a comparable performance level. Our results suggest design rules for efficient high-surface-area solar cells with nano- and microstructured semiconductor absorbers.

Concepts: Semiconductor, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Energy conversion efficiency, Germanium, Photovoltaic module, P-n junction, Carrier generation and recombination