‘Unusual placement’ makes new Semiconductor Antenna

‘Unusual placement’ makes new Semiconductor Antenna

Technology News |
By Wisse Hettinga

Researchers create antenna for nanoscale light sources using unusual placement of semiconductor material

The fast switching and modulation of light is at the heart, among other things, of modern data transfer, in which information is sent through fiber optic cables in the shape of modulated light beams. It has been possible for several years now to miniaturize light modulators and to integrate them into chips, but the light sources themselves—light emitting diodes (LEDs) or lasers—still pose problems to engineers.

A team of researchers at ETH Zurich led by Prof. Lukas Novotny, together with colleagues at EMPA in Dübendorf and at ICFO in Barcelona, have now found a new mechanism by which tiny but efficient light sources could be produced in the future. The results of their research have recently been published in the journal Nature Materials.

“To achieve this, we first had to try the unexpected,” says Novotny. For several years he and his coworkers have been working on miniature light sources that are based on the tunnel effect. Between two electrodes (made of gold and graphene in this case) separated by an insulating material, electrons can tunnel according to the rules of quantum mechanics. Under particular circumstances—that is, if the tunnel process is inelastic, meaning that the energy of the electrons is not conserved—light can be created.

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