Researchers from both institution's have shown how building multi-layered hetero-structures in a three-dimensional stack can provide an exciting physical phenomenon - enabling for exploring new electronic devices. The breakthrough research was published in Science - and it is claimed it could lead to electric energy that runs entire buildings generated by sunlight absorbed by its exposed walls. Subsequently the energy can be employed at will to change the transparency and reflectivity of fixtures and windows dependent on surrounding environmental conditions, such as annual sunlight exposure and degree of brightness.
The historical isolation of Graphene, by UoM Novel Laureates Professors Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov (2004) - has led to the discovery of a whole new family of one-atom thick nanomaterials. Typically Graphene is described as the world's thinnest, strongest and most conductive material, which has been claimed to revolutionise a huge number of diverse applications. For example from smartphones, ultra-fast broadband to drug delivery and future nano computer chips.
Collectively, such 2D crystals demonstrate a vast range of superlative properties. In other words from being to conductive to insulating, from being opaque to transparent, etc. It is claimed every new layer in such stacks adds exciting new functions, so the hetero-structures are highly functional to create novel, multi-functional devices.
The Manchester and Singapore researchers have expanded the functionality of their hetero-structures into opto-electronics and photonics, by combining Graphene with monolayers of transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDC). The researchers were able to create extremely sensitive and efficient photovoltaic devices, whereby such devices could potentially be used as ultra-sensitive photo-detectors or very efficient solar cells.
In the devices created - layers of TMDC were sandwiched between two layers of Graphene - combining the exciting properties of both 2D crystals. TMDC layers can act as very efficient light absorbers and Graphene acting as a transparent conductive layer. This enables for further integration of such photovoltaic devices into more complex, multi-functional hetero-structures.
Professor Novoselov stated - "We are excited about the new physics and new opportunities, which are brought to use by hetero-structures based on 2D atomic crystals. The library of available 2D crystals is already quite rich, covering a large application space."
"Such photo-active hetero-structures add yet new possibilities, and pave the road for new types of experiments. As we create more and more complex hetero-structures, so the functionalities of the devices will become richer, entering the realm of multi-functional devices."
The lead UoM research Dr Liam Britnell added - "It was impressive how quickly we passed from the idea of such photo-sensitive hetero-structures to the working device. It worked practically from the very beginning and evening the most unoptimised structures showed very respectable characteristics"
Consistently Professor Antonio Castro Neto - Director of the Graphene Research Centre at the National University of Singapore added - "We were able to identify the ideal combination of materials - very photo-sensitive TMDC and optically transparent and conductive Graphene, which collectively create a very efficient photovoltaic device."
"We are sure that as we research more into the area of 2D atomic crystals we will be able to identify more of such complimentary materials and create more complex hetero-structures with multiple functionalities. This is really an open field and we will explore it."
In summary, Dr Cinzia Casiraghi from UoM added - "Photo-sensitive hetero-structures would open a way for other hetero-structures with new functionalities. Also, in future we plan for cheaper and more efficient hetero-structure for photovoltaic applications." Original article available here
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