Breakthrough: Quantum dot solids could revolutionize electronics

Scientists at Cornell University have made a discovery that rivals the single-crystal silicon wafer in significance.

Researchers at the Robert Frederick Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering School at Cornell University have made a breakthrough involving quantum dot solids that could change the electronics industry as we know it. According to a report from R&D Magazine, a team led by associate professor Tobias Hanrath has developed two-dimensional structures from single-crystal building blocks that can be used to create superlattice structures with improved atomic coherence.

The individual crystal building blocks are unique because they require no adhesive substance to connect to other crystals. At only five nanometers long, the crystals could challenge some of the most advanced semiconductor nanocrystals out today, and could have huge implications in the fields of energy absorption and light emission.

Hanrath is pleased with the results – he says that these building blocks connect so perfectly at the atomic level that they are pushing the absolute limit for current nanocrystal technologies.

The research builds off of previous studies that explored methods for connecting quantum dots using a connector molecule known as a ligand. By electronically coupling quantum dots, the engineers were able to achieve a level of cohesion never seen before.

While this caused significant headaches for Hanrath and his team, their most recent work appears to have cleared the hurdle. The discovery could allow researchers to connect crystals in a myriad of new ways to manipulate electricity.

Despite the recent breakthrough, the scientists still have yet to use the quantum dot solids for a practical application. While the structure of the new superlattice is likely superior to nanocrystal solids connected with ligands, researchers face the new challenge of standardizing the shape of the individual building blocks before they can be studied further.

Researchers see a tough road ahead, but are encouraged by the recent discovery. Just as the single-crystal silicon wafer changed the world in the 1950s, the quantum dot solid superlattice structure could usher in a new era of technology.

A press release from Cornell describing the details of the study can be found here.

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