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Graphene-based material improves semiconductor performance

Posted: 23 Feb 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:graphene? semiconducting polymer? photovoltaic devices? organic devices?

Experiments at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory show that graphene, a one atom-thick sheet of carbon, boosts semiconductor performance when combined with other materials. This proves graphene's promising potential for future electronics, advanced solar cells, protective coatings and other uses. In addition, this opens up opportunities for graphene-based photovoltaic and organic electronic devices.

In addition to graphene's highly desirable electrical properties, flexibility and strength, combining it with other materials could extend its range even further, as shown by SLAC experiments. These experiments looked at the properties of materials that combine graphene with a common type of semiconducting polymer. They found that a thin film of the polymer transported electric charge even better when grown on a single layer of graphene than it does when placed on a thin layer of silicon.

Graphene-based material

"Our results are among the first to measure the charge transport in these materials in the vertical directionthe direction that charge travels in organic photovoltaic devices like solar cells or in light-emitting diodes," said David Barbero of Ume? University in Sweden, leader of the international research team that performed the experiments at SLAC's Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource, a DOE Office of Science user facility. "The result was somewhat expected, because graphene and silicon have different crystalline structures and electrical properties."

But the team also discovered something very unexpected, he said.

Although it was widely believed that a thinner polymer film should enable electrons to travel faster and more efficiently than a thicker film, Barbero and his team discovered that a polymer film about 50nm thick conducted charge about 50 times better when deposited on graphene than the same film about 10nm thick.

The team concluded that the thicker film's structure, which consists of a mosaic of crystallites oriented at different angles, likely forms a continuous pathway of interconnected crystals. This, they theorise, allows for easier charge transport than a regular thin film, whose thin, plate-like crystal structures are oriented parallel to the graphene layer.

By better controlling the thickness and crystalline structure of the semiconducting film, it may be possible to design even more efficient graphene-based organic electronic devices.

"The fields most likely to benefit from this work are probably next-generation photovoltaic devices and flexible electronic devices," said Barbero.





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