Basic research improves understanding of new optical materials

Basic research improves understanding of new optical materials

Unit cells and electron micrographs of alkaline earth chalcogenide (AeCh) nanocrystals. Credit: US Department of Energy Ames National Laboratory

Research into the synthesis of new materials could lead to more sustainable and environmentally friendly items such as solar panels and light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Scientists from Ames National Laboratory and Iowa State University have developed a colloidal synthesis method for alkaline earth chalcogenides. This method allows them to control the size of the nanocrystals in the material. They were also able to study the surface chemistry of the nanocrystals and evaluate the purity and optical properties of the materials in question. Their research is discussed in the research paper “Alkaline Earth Chalcogenide-Containing Nanocrystals: Solution Phase Synthesis, Surface Chemistry, and Stability” published in ACS nano.

Alkaline earth chalcogenides are a type of semiconductor that is receiving increasing interest among scientists. They have a variety of possible applications such as bioimaging, LEDs, and thermal sensors. These compounds can also be used to make optical materials such as perovskite, which convert light into energy.

According to Javier Vela, Ames Lab Scientist and John D. Corbett Professor of Chemistry at Iowa State University, one reason these new materials are important is that they “are composed of abundant earth- and biocompatible elements, making them favorable alternatives compared to the toxic or expensive materials used on wide range Semiconductors. “

Villa explained that the widely used semiconductors contain lead or cadmium, both of which are harmful to human health and the environment. In addition, the most common technique that scientists use to synthesize these materials involves solid-state reactions. “These reactions often occur at very high temperatures (above 900 degrees Celsius or 1,652 degrees Fahrenheit) and require reaction times that can last anywhere from days to weeks,” he said.

On the other hand, Villa explained that “solution (colloid) phase chemistry can be done using much lower temperatures (<300°C or 572°F) and shorter reaction times. So, the colloidal method used by Villa’s team requires less energy and time to manufacture Materials.

Vela’s team found that the colloid synthesis method allowed them to control the size of the nanocrystals. The size of the nanocrystal is important because it determines the optical properties of some materials. Villa explained that by changing the size of the particles, scientists can influence how well materials absorb light. “This means that we can manufacture materials more suitable for specific applications just by changing the size of the nanocrystals,” he said.

According to Villa, the team’s original goal was to synthesize an alkaline-earth semiconducting chalcogenide perovskite, given its potential use in solar devices. However, to achieve this goal, they needed a deeper understanding of the basic chemistry of alkaline earth chalcogenides. They chose to focus on these binary materials instead.

Villa said their research fills a need to improve scientists’ understanding of photovoltaic, luminescent and thermoelectric materials made from elements abundant in the earth and non-toxic. He said: “We hope that our developments with this project will eventually help in the synthesis of more complex nanomaterials, such as alkaline-earth chalcogenides. perovskite. “

Study authors included Alison N. Roth, Yunhwa Chen, Marquis Adamson, Unpeel J, Molly Wagner, Aaron J. Rossini and Javier Villa.

Chemists use abundant, low-cost, non-toxic elements to synthesize semiconductors

more information:
Allison N. Roth et al., Alkaline earth chalcogenide-containing nanocrystals: solution phase synthesis, surface chemistry, and stability, ACS nano (2022). DOI: 10.1021 / acsnano.2c02116

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