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Tuning Band Gap Without Changing the Material

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 03:42PM

The band gap is one of the most important properties of a material in modern technologies, especially for electro-optical devices. It is what determines whether the material will absorb a photon or not, so the ability to tune the band gap would be invaluable. Normally this would require changing the structure or the chemistry of the material, but researchers at Northwestern University have found a much simpler solution.

The band gap is the energy distance between the conducting and non-conducting electron bands in an atom. Only with the right amount of energy can an electron be made to jump across the band gap, and conduct any energy. To tune this value, a material's composition typically has to be altered and normally that just results in a change of one electron volt. What the Northwestern researchers found with their quantum mechanical calculations is that shifting the layers in an oxide material can tune the gap by two electron volts. Shifting the layers, so that different atoms align with each other, does not alter the chemistry of a material.

As the current work is all just computational, the next step is to experimentally test that. If successful, this research could have some powerful implications as materials could have their properties altered, resulting in new properties, without becoming altogether different materials.

Source: Northwestern University

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