A two-dimensional material developed by Bayreuth physicist Prof. Dr. Axel Enders together with international partners could revolutionize electronics.
Semiconductors that are as thin as an atom are no longer the stuff of science fiction. Bayreuth physicist Prof. Dr. Axel Enders, together with partners in Poland and the US, has developed a two-dimensional material that could revolutionize electronics. Thanks to its semiconductor properties, this material could be much better suited for high tech applications than graphene, the discovery of which in 2004 was celebrated worldwide as a scientific breakthrough. This new material contains carbon, boron, and nitrogen, and its chemical name is “Hexagonal Boron-Carbon-Nitrogen (h-BCN)”. The new development was published in the journal ACS Nano.
“Our findings could be the starting point for a new generation of electronic transistors, circuits, and sensors that are much smaller and more bendable than the electronic elements used to date. They are likely to enable a considerable decrease in power consumption,” Prof. Enders predicts, citing the CMOS technology that currently dominates the electronics industry. This technology has clear limits with regard to further miniaturization. “h-BCN is much better suited than graphene when it comes to pushing these limits,” according to Enders.
Graphene is a two-dimensional lattice made up entirely of carbon atoms. It is thus just as thin as a single atom. Once scientists began investigating these structures more closely, their remarkable properties were greeted with enthusiasm across the world. Graphene is 100 to 300 times stronger than steel and is, at the same time, an excellent conductor of heat and electricity. However, electrons are able to flow through unhindered at any applied voltage such that there is no defined on-position or off-position. “For this reason, graphene is not well suited for most electronic devices. Semiconductors are required, since only they can ensure switchable on and off states,” Prof. Enders explained. He had the idea of replacing individual carbon atoms in graphene with boron and nitrogen, resulting in a two-dimensional grid with the properties of a semiconductor. He has now been able to turn this idea into reality with his team of scientists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Research partners at the University of Cracow, the State University of New York, Boston College, and Tufts University also contributed to this achievement.
It was founded in 1975 as a campus university focusing on international collaboration and interdisciplinarity. The university has an outstanding reputation in a broad range of disciplines and currently maintains a network of more than 450 international cooperations with research institutes and universities around the world. It is broadly organized into six undergraduate and graduate faculties, with each faculty defining its own admission standards and academic programs in near autonomy.
The university is renowned for offering several interdisciplinary courses such as Philosophy & Economics, Global Change Ecology, Theatre and Media studies, and Health Economics. The management, economics and law programs are ranked among the top degrees in Germany. In 2013 the university was ranked on place number 40 in the Times Higher Education world university ranking for universities founded less than 50 years ago.
It is a member of the Elite Network of Bavaria (Elitenetzwerk Bayern), a coalition of leading research universities jointly offering graduate programs and international doctorate programs.
University of Bayreuth research articles from Innovation Toronto
The use of sunlight as an energy source is achieved in a number of ways, from conversion to electricity via photovoltaic (PV) panels, concentrated heat to drive steam turbines, and even hydrogen generation via artificial photosynthesis. Unfortunately, much of the light energy in PV and photosynthesis systems is lost as heat due to the thermodynamic inefficiencies inherent in the process of converting the incoming energy from one form to another.
Now scientists working at the University of Bayreuth claim to have created a super-efficient light-energy transport conduit that exhibits almost zero loss, and shows promise as the missing link in the sunlight to energy conversion process.
Using specifically-generated nanofibers at its core, this is reported to be the very first time a directed energy transport system has been exhibited that effectively moves intact light energy over a distance of several micrometers, and at room temperature. And, according to the researchers, the transference of energy from block to block in the nanofibers is only adequately explained at the quantum level with coherence effects driving the energy along the individual fibers.
Quantum coherence is the phenomenon where subatomic waves are closely interlinked via shared electromagnetic fields. As they travel in phase together, these quantum coherent waves start to act as one very large synchronous wave propagating across a medium. In the case of the University of Bayreuth device, these coherent waves of energy travel across the molecular building blocks from which the nanofibers are made, passing from block to block and moving as one continuous energy wave would in unbound free space.
It is this effect that the scientists say is driving the super-low energy loss capabilities of their device, and have confirmed this observation using a variety of microscopy techniques to visualize the conveyance of excitation energy along the nanofibers.