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Concept: Silicon


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


The potential of thermoelectric materials to generate electricity from the waste heat can play a key role in achieving a global sustainable energy future. In order to proceed in this direction, it is essential to have thermoelectric materials that are environmentally friendly and exhibit high figure of merit, ZT. Oxide thermoelectric materials are considered ideal for such applications. High thermoelectric performance has been reported in single crystals of Ca3Co4O9. However, for large scale applications single crystals are not suitable and it is essential to develop high-performance polycrystalline thermoelectric materials. In polycrystalline form, Ca3Co4O9 is known to exhibit much weaker thermoelectric response than in single crystal form. Here, we report the observation of enhanced thermoelectric response in polycrystalline Ca3Co4O9 on doping Tb ions in the material. Polycrystalline Ca3-xTbxCo4O9 (x = 0.0-0.7) samples were prepared by a solid-state reaction technique. Samples were thoroughly characterized using several state of the art techniques including XRD, TEM, SEM and XPS. Temperature dependent Seebeck coefficient, electrical resistivity and thermal conductivity measurements were performed. A record ZT of 0.74 at 800 K was observed for Tb doped Ca3Co4O9 which is the highest value observed till date in any polycrystalline sample of this system.

Concepts: Crystal, Heat, Silicon, Solid, Materials science, Electrical conductivity, Thermoelectric effect, Crystallite


In recent years, zinc oxide (ZnO) has become one of the most popular research materials due to its unique properties and various applications. ZnO is an intrinsic semiconductor, with a wide bandgap (3.37 eV) and large exciton binding energy (60 meV) making it suitable for many optical applications. In this experiment, the simple hydrothermal method is used to grow indium-doped ZnO nanostructures on a silicon wafer, which are then annealed at different temperatures (400°C to 1,000°C) in an abundant oxygen atmosphere. This study discusses the surface structure and optical characteristic of ZnO nanomaterials. The structure of the ZnO nanostructures is analyzed by X-ray diffraction, the superficial state by scanning electron microscopy, and the optical measurements which are carried out using the temperature-dependent photoluminescence (PL) spectra. In this study, we discuss the broad peak energy of the yellow-orange emission which shows tendency towards a blueshift with the temperature increase in the PL spectra. This differs from other common semiconductors which have an increase in their peak energy of deep-level emission along with measurement temperature.

Concepts: Electron, Light, Mass, Temperature, Semiconductor, Silicon, Zinc oxide, Band gap


Diatoms, the major contributors of the global biogenic silica cycle in modern oceans, account for about 40% of global marine primary productivity. They are an important component of the biological pump in the ocean, and their assemblage can be used as useful climate proxies; it is therefore critical to better understand the changes induced by environmental pH on their physiology, silicification capability and morphology. Here, we show that external pH influences cell growth of the ubiquitous diatom Thalassiosira weissflogii, and modifies intracellular silicic acid and biogenic silica contents per cell. Measurements at the single-cell level reveal that extracellular pH modifications lead to intracellular acidosis. To further understand how variations of the acid-base balance affect silicon metabolism and theca formation, we developed novel imaging techniques to measure the dynamics of valve formation. We demonstrate that the kinetics of valve morphogenesis, at least in the early stages, depends on pH. Analytical modeling results suggest that acidic conditions alter the dynamics of the expansion of the vesicles within which silica polymerization occurs, and probably its internal pH. Morphological analysis of valve patterns reveals that acidification also reduces the dimension of the nanometric pores present on the valves, and concurrently overall valve porosity. Variations in the valve silica network seem to be more correlated to the dynamics and the regulation of the morphogenesis process than the silicon incorporation rate. These multiparametric analyses from single-cell to cell-population levels demonstrate that several higher-level processes are sensitive to the acid-base balance in diatoms, and its regulation is a key factor for the control of pattern formation and silicon metabolism.

Concepts: Developmental biology, Cell wall, PH, Silicon, Acid-base homeostasis, Bicarbonate, Diatom, Silicic acid


A simple method for the fabrication of porous silicon (Si) by metal-assisted etching was developed using gold nanoparticles as catalytic sites. The etching masks were prepared by spin-coating of colloidal gold nanoparticles onto Si. An appropriate functionalization of the gold nanoparticle surface prior to the deposition step enabled the formation of quasi-hexagonally ordered arrays by self-assembly which were translated into an array of pores by subsequent etching in HF solution containing H2O2. The quality of the pattern transfer depended on the chosen preparation conditions for the gold nanoparticle etching mask. The influence of the Si surface properties was investigated by using either hydrophilic or hydrophobic Si substrates resulting from piranha solution or HF treatment, respectively. The polymer-coated gold nanoparticles had to be thermally treated in order to provide a direct contact at the metal/Si interface which is required for the following metal-assisted etching. Plasma treatment as well as flame annealing was successfully applied. The best results were obtained for Si substrates which were flame annealed in order to remove the polymer matrix - independent of the substrate surface properties prior to spin-coating (hydrophilic or hydrophobic). The presented method opens up new resources for the fabrication of porous silicon by metal-assisted etching. Here, a vast variety of metal nanoparticles accessible by well-established wet-chemical synthesis can be employed for the fabrication of the etching masks.

Concepts: Nanoparticle, Nanotechnology, Nanomaterials, Colloid, Silicon, Gold, Colloidal gold, Nanocrystalline silicon


Because of its optical and electrical properties, large surfaces, and compatibility with standard silicon processes, porous silicon is a very interesting material in photovoltaic and microelectromechanical systems technology. In some applications, porous silicon is annealed at high temperature and, consequently, the cylindrical pores that are generated by anodization or stain etching reorganize into randomly distributed closed sphere-like pores. Although the design of devices which involve this material needs an accurate evaluation of its mechanical properties, only few researchers have studied the mechanical properties of porous silicon, and no data are nowadays available on the mechanical properties of sintered porous silicon. In this work we propose a finite element model to estimate the mechanical properties of sintered meso-porous silicon. The model has been employed to study the dependence of the Young’s modulus and the shear modulus (upper and lower bounds) on the porosity for porosities between 0% to 40%. Interpolation functions for the Young’s modulus and shear modulus have been obtained, and the results show good agreement with the data reported for other porous media. A Monte Carlo simulation has also been employed to study the effect of the actual microstructure on the mechanical properties.

Concepts: Silicon, Materials science, Monte Carlo method, Porosity, Computer simulation, Young's modulus, Numerical analysis, Shear modulus


Inositol-stabilized arginine silicate (ASI; Nitrosigine(®)) has been validated to increase levels of arginine, silicon and nitric oxide production. To evaluate potential enhancement of mental focus and clarity, ASI (1500 mg/day) was tested in two double-blind placebo-controlled crossover (DBPC-X) studies using the Trail Making Test (TMT, Parts A and B). In the two studies, healthy males took ASI for 14 and 3 days, respectively. In the first study, after 14 days of dosing, TMT B time decreased significantly from baseline (28% improvement, p = 0.045). In the second study evaluating shorter-term effects, TMT B time decreased significantly compared to placebo (33% improvement, p = 0.024) in a 10-min period. After 3 days of dosing, TMT B time significantly decreased from baseline scores (35% improvement, p < 0.001). These findings show that ASI significantly improved the ability to perform complex cognitive tests requiring mental flexibility, processing speed and executive functioning.

Concepts: Oxygen, Improve, Silicon, Placebo, Nitric oxide, Silicon dioxide, Nitric acid, Executive functions


The Mg-Si-O system is the major Earth and rocky planet-forming system. Here, through quantum variable-composition evolutionary structure explorations, we have discovered several unexpected stable binary and ternary compounds in the Mg-Si-O system. Besides the well-known SiO2 phases, we have found two extraordinary silicon oxides, SiO3 and SiO, which become stable at pressures above 0.51 TPa and 1.89 TPa, respectively. In the Mg-O system, we have found one new compound, MgO3, which becomes stable at 0.89 TPa. We find that not only the (MgO)x·(SiO2)y compounds, but also two (MgO3)x·(SiO3)y compounds, MgSi3O12 and MgSiO6, have stability fields above 2.41 TPa and 2.95 TPa, respectively. The highly oxidized MgSi3O12 can form in deep mantles of mega-Earths with masses above 20 M⊕ (M⊕:Earth’s mass). Furthermore, the dissociation pathways of pPv-MgSiO3 are also clarified, and found to be different at low and high temperatures. The low-temperature pathway is MgSiO3 ⇒ Mg2SiO4 + MgSi2O5 ⇒ SiO2 + Mg2SiO4 ⇒ MgO + SiO2, while the high-temperature pathway is MgSiO3 ⇒ Mg2SiO4 + MgSi2O5 ⇒ MgO + MgSi2O5 ⇒ MgO + SiO2. Present results are relevant for models of the internal structure of giant exoplanets, and for understanding the high-pressure behavior of materials.

Concepts: Oxygen, Oxide, Silicon, Chemical compound, Oxides, Silicon dioxide, Centrifugation, Extrasolar planet


Silicon materials remain unused for supercapacitors due to extreme reactivity of silicon with electrolytes. However, doped silicon materials boast a low mass density, excellent conductivity, a controllably etched nanoporous structure, and combined earth abundance and technological presence appealing to diverse energy storage frameworks. Here, we demonstrate a universal route to transform porous silicon (P-Si) into stable electrodes for electrochemical devices through growth of an ultra-thin, conformal graphene coating on the P-Si surface. This graphene coating simultaneously passivates surface charge traps and provides an ideal electrode-electrolyte electrochemical interface. This leads to 10-40X improvement in energy density, and a 2X wider electrochemical window compared to identically-structured unpassivated P-Si. This work demonstrates a technique generalizable to mesoporous and nanoporous materials that decouples the engineering of electrode structure and electrochemical surface stability to engineer performance in electrochemical environments. Specifically, we demonstrate P-Si as a promising new platform for grid-scale and integrated electrochemical energy storage.

Concepts: Density, Water, Electrochemistry, Engineering, Silicon, Battery, Electrolyte, Electrode


Glasses and single crystals have traditionally been used as optical windows. Recently, there has been a high demand for harder and tougher optical windows that are able to endure severe conditions. Transparent polycrystalline ceramics can fulfill this demand because of their superior mechanical properties. It is known that polycrystalline ceramics with a spinel structure in compositions of MgAl2O4 and aluminum oxynitride (γ-AlON) show high optical transparency. Here we report the synthesis of the hardest transparent spinel ceramic, i.e. polycrystalline cubic silicon nitride (c-Si3N4). This material shows an intrinsic optical transparency over a wide range of wavelengths below its band-gap energy (258 nm) and is categorized as one of the third hardest materials next to diamond and cubic boron nitride (cBN). Since the high temperature metastability of c-Si3N4 in air is superior to those of diamond and cBN, the transparent c-Si3N4 ceramic can potentially be used as a window under extremely severe conditions.

Concepts: Optical fiber, Silicon, Diamond, Silicon carbide, Ceramic materials, Boron nitride, Transparent materials, Silicon nitride