Inelastic electron tunnelling for new light emitting devices

July 26, 2018 //By Julien Happich
Inelastic electron tunnelling for new light emitting devices
Using solution-based chemical synthesis methods rather than conventional nanolithography techniques, researchers from the University of California San Diego have been able to assemble silver nanocrystals into tiny metal–insulator–metal junctions.


Concept illustration of a nanosized silver–insulator–silver
junction generating light by inelastical electron tunnelling.
Credit: Steven Bopp, University of California - San Diego

The bow-tie-shaped plasmonic nanostructure described in a paper titled "Efficient light generation from enhanced inelastic electron tunnelling" published in Nature Photonics consists of two single crystals silver cuboids joined at one corner, yet separated by a 1.5nm thin insulating polymer (PolyVinylPyrrolidone or PVP). Applying a voltage across the tiny junction allows electrons to tunnel from one corner to the next through the PVP barrier, transferring some of their energy to surface plasmon polaritons along the metal-insulator interface which then radiate that energy into photons.

The extremely small feature sizes and specific geometry of the junction make it particularly efficient at tunnelling electrons inelastically, meaning more energy can be transferred from the tunnelling electrons to the plasmon polaritons. Hence the authors report a more efficient light generation, up to 2%, an improvement of two orders of magnitude over previous work, they claim.


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