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May 25, 2010

Graphene Can Have Quantum Dots Whereever Hydrogens are Removed

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Rice researchers created these fanciful images of electron densities from their graphane-embedded quantum dot calculations. The isosurfaces depict electrons in the valance band that, in reality, would be confined within the quantum dot, and demonstrate that very little charge would leak from the hydrogen-defined boundaries of such a dot.
Removing hydrogen from Graphane creates quantum dots.

Researchers mentored by Boris Yakobson, a Rice professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and of chemistry, have discovered the strategic extraction of hydrogen atoms from a two-dimensional sheet of graphane naturally opens up spaces of pure graphene that look – and act – like quantum dots. The work so far is computationally proven, but it offers a path to large scale arrays of quantum dots on sheets of graphane.

Graphene is one-atom-thick sheets of carbon.

Graphane is simply graphene modified by hydrogen atoms added to both sides of the matrix, which makes it an insulator. While it's still technically only a single atom thick, graphane offers great possibilities for the manipulation of the material's semiconducting properties.


Quantum dots are crystalline molecules from a few to many atoms in size that interact with light and magnetic fields in unique ways. The size of a dot determines its band gap – the amount of energy needed to close the circuit – and makes it tunable to a precise degree. The frequencies of light and energy released by activated dots make them particularly useful for chemical sensors, solar cells, medical imaging and nanoscale circuitry.

Singh and Penev calculated that removing islands of hydrogen from both sides of a graphane matrix leaves a well with all the properties of quantum dots, which may also be useful in creating arrays of dots for many applications.

Their work revealed several interesting characteristics. They found that when chunks of the hydrogen sublattice are removed, the area left behind is always hexagonal, with a sharp interface between the graphene and graphane. This is important, they said, because it means each dot is highly contained; calculations show very little leakage of charge into the graphane host material




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