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MIT researchers improve quantum-dot performance

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Written by: David L. Chandler, MIT News Office

New production method could enable everything from more efficient computer displays to enhanced biomedical testing.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Quantum dots — tiny particles that emit light in a dazzling array of glowing colors — have the potential for many applications, but have faced a series of hurdles to improved performance. But an MIT team says that it has succeeded in overcoming all these obstacles at once, while earlier efforts have only been able to tackle them one or a few at a time.

Moungi G. Bawendi

Quantum dots — in this case, a specific type called colloidal quantum dots — are tiny particles of semiconductor material that are so small that their properties differ from those of the bulk material: They are governed in part by the laws of quantum mechanics that describe how atoms and subatomic particles behave. When illuminated with ultraviolet light, the dots fluoresce brightly in a range of colors, determined by the sizes of the particles.

First discovered in the 1980s, these materials have been the focus of intense research because of their potential to provide significant advantages in a wide variety of optical applications, but their actual usage has been limited by several factors. Now, research published this week in the journal Nature Materials by MIT chemistry postdoc Ou Chen, Moungi Bawendi, the Lester Wolfe Professor of Chemistry, and several others raises the prospect that these limiting factors can all be overcome.

The new process developed by the MIT team produces quantum dots with four important qualities: uniform sizes and shapes; bright emissions, producing close to 100 percent emission efficiency; a very narrow peak of emissions, meaning that the colors emitted by the particles can be precisely controlled; and an elimination of a tendency to blink on and off, which limited the usefulness of earlier quantum-dot applications.

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‘Invisibility’ could be a key to better electronics

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Author: David Chandler, MIT News Office

MIT team applies technology developed for visual ‘cloaking’ to enable more efficient transfer of electrons.

A new approach that allows objects to become “invisible” has now been applied to an entirely different area: letting particles “hide” from passing electrons, which could lead to more efficient thermoelectric devices and new kinds of electronics.

The concept — developed by MIT graduate student Bolin Liao, former postdoc Mona Zebarjadi (now an assistant professor at Rutgers University), research scientist Keivan Esfarjani, and mechanical engineering professor Gang Chen — is described in a paper in the journal Physical Review Letters.

Diagram shows the 'probability flux' of electrons, a representation of the paths of electrons as they pass through an 'invisible' nanoparticle. While the paths are bent as they enter the particle, they are subsequently bent back so that they re-emerge from the other side on the same trajectory they started with — just as if the particle wasn't there. - Image courtesy Bolin Liao et al.

Normally, electrons travel through a material in a way that is similar to the motion of electromagnetic waves, including light; their behavior can be described by wave equations. That led the MIT researchers to the idea of harnessing the cloaking mechanisms developed to shield objects from view — but applying it to the movement of electrons, which is key to electronic and thermoelectric devices.

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