Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Graphene shows unusual thermoelectric response to light: Finding could lead to new photodetectors or energy-harvesting devices.

Photo: Len Rubenstein MIT
Photo: Len Rubenstein MIT

Abstract:
Graphene, an exotic form of carbon consisting of sheets a single atom thick, exhibits a novel reaction to light, MIT researchers have found: Sparked by light's energy, the material can produce electric current in unusual ways. The finding could lead to improvements in photodetectors and night-vision systems, and possibly to a new approach to generating electricity from sunlight.

Graphene shows unusual thermoelectric response to light: Finding could lead to new photodetectors or energy-harvesting devices.

Cambridge, MA | Posted on October 8th, 2011

This current-generating effect had been observed before, but researchers had incorrectly assumed it was due to a photovoltaic effect, says Pablo Jarillo-Herrero, an assistant professor of physics at MIT and senior author of a new paper published in the journal Science. The paper's lead author is postdoc Nathaniel Gabor; co-authors include four MIT students, MIT physics professor Leonid Levitov and two researchers at the National Institute for Materials Science in Tsukuba, Japan.

Instead, the MIT researchers found that shining light on a sheet of graphene, treated so that it had two regions with different electrical properties, creates a temperature difference that, in turn, generates a current. Graphene heats inconsistently when illuminated by a laser, Jarillo-Herrero and his colleagues found: The material's electrons, which carry current, are heated by the light, but the lattice of carbon nuclei that forms graphene's backbone remains cool. It's this difference in temperature within the material that produces the flow of electricity. This mechanism, dubbed a "hot-carrier" response, "is very unusual," Jarillo-Herrero says.

Such differential heating has been observed before, but only under very special circumstances: either at ultralow temperatures (measured in thousandths of a degree above absolute zero), or when materials are blasted with intense energy from a high-power laser. This response in graphene, by contrast, occurs across a broad range of temperatures all the way up to room temperature, and with light no more intense than ordinary sunlight.

The reason for this unusual thermal response, Jarillo-Herrero says, is that graphene is, pound for pound, the strongest material known. In most materials, superheated electrons would transfer energy to the lattice around them. In the case of graphene, however, that's exceedingly hard to do, since the material's strength means it takes very high energy to vibrate its lattice of carbon nuclei so very little of the electrons' heat is transferred to that lattice.

Because this phenomenon is so new, Jarillo-Herrero says it is hard to know what its ultimate applications might be. "Our work is mostly fundamental physics," he says, but adds that "many people believe that graphene could be used for a whole variety of applications."

But there are already some suggestions, he says: Graphene "could be a good photodetector" because it produces current in a different way than other materials used to detect light. It also "can detect over a very wide energy range," Jarillo-Herrero says. For example, it works very well in infrared light, which can be difficult for other detectors to handle. That could make it an important component of devices from night-vision systems to advanced detectors for new astronomical telescopes.

The new work suggests graphene could also find uses in detection of biologically important molecules, such as toxins, disease vectors or food contaminants, many of which give off infrared light when illuminated. And graphene, made of pure and abundant carbon, could be a much cheaper detector material than presently used semiconductors that often include rare, expensive elements.

The research also suggests graphene could be a very effective material for collecting solar energy, Jarillo-Herrero says, because it responds to a broad range of wavelengths; typical photovoltaic materials are limited to specific frequencies, or colors, of light. But more research will be needed, he says, adding, "It is still unclear if it could be used for efficient energy generation. It's too early to tell."

"This is the absolute infancy of graphene photodetectors," Jarillo-Herrero says. "There are many factors that could make it better or faster," which will now be the subject of further research.

Philip Kim, an associate professor of physics at Columbia University who was not involved in this research, says the work represents "extremely important progress toward optoelectric and energy-harvesting applications" based on graphene. He adds that because of this team's work, "we now have better understanding of photo-generated hot electrons in graphene, excited by light."

The research was supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, along with grants from the National Science Foundation and the Packard Foundation.

David L. Chandler, MIT News Office

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
77 Massachusetts Avenue, Room 11-400
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
617.253.2700

Copyright © MIT

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

A nano-roundabout for light December 10th, 2016

Keeping electric car design on the right road: A closer look at the life-cycle impacts of lithium-ion batteries and proton exchange membrane fuel cells December 9th, 2016

Further improvement of qubit lifetime for quantum computers: New technique removes quasiparticles from superconducting quantum circuits December 9th, 2016

Scientists track chemical and structural evolution of catalytic nanoparticles in 3-D: Up-close, real-time, chemical-sensitive 3-D imaging offers clues for reducing cost/improving performance of catalysts for fuel-cell-powered vehicles and other applications December 8th, 2016

Graphene/ Graphite

Physicists decipher electronic properties of materials in work that may change transistors December 6th, 2016

Bumpy surfaces, graphene beat the heat in devices: Rice University theory shows way to enhance heat sinks in future microelectronics November 29th, 2016

Uncovering the secrets of friction on graphene: Sliding on flexible graphene surfaces has been uncharted territory until now November 23rd, 2016

2-D material a brittle surprise: Rice University researchers finds molybdenum diselenide not as strong as they thought November 14th, 2016

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Chemical trickery corrals 'hyperactive' metal-oxide cluster December 8th, 2016

Researchers peer into atom-sized tunnels in hunt for better battery: May improve lithium ion for larger devices, like cars December 8th, 2016

Scientists track chemical and structural evolution of catalytic nanoparticles in 3-D: Up-close, real-time, chemical-sensitive 3-D imaging offers clues for reducing cost/improving performance of catalysts for fuel-cell-powered vehicles and other applications December 8th, 2016

Exotic insulator may hold clue to key mystery of modern physics: Johns Hopkins-led research shows material living between classical and quantum worlds December 8th, 2016

Discoveries

A nano-roundabout for light December 10th, 2016

Keeping electric car design on the right road: A closer look at the life-cycle impacts of lithium-ion batteries and proton exchange membrane fuel cells December 9th, 2016

Further improvement of qubit lifetime for quantum computers: New technique removes quasiparticles from superconducting quantum circuits December 9th, 2016

Scientists track chemical and structural evolution of catalytic nanoparticles in 3-D: Up-close, real-time, chemical-sensitive 3-D imaging offers clues for reducing cost/improving performance of catalysts for fuel-cell-powered vehicles and other applications December 8th, 2016

Announcements

A nano-roundabout for light December 10th, 2016

Keeping electric car design on the right road: A closer look at the life-cycle impacts of lithium-ion batteries and proton exchange membrane fuel cells December 9th, 2016

Further improvement of qubit lifetime for quantum computers: New technique removes quasiparticles from superconducting quantum circuits December 9th, 2016

Chemical trickery corrals 'hyperactive' metal-oxide cluster December 8th, 2016

Military

Exotic insulator may hold clue to key mystery of modern physics: Johns Hopkins-led research shows material living between classical and quantum worlds December 8th, 2016

ANU invention to inspire new night-vision specs December 7th, 2016

Infrared instrumentation leader secures exclusive use of Vantablack coating December 5th, 2016

Quantum obstacle course changes material from superconductor to insulator December 1st, 2016

Energy

Research Study: MetaSOLTM Shatters Solar Panel Efficiency Forecasts with Innovative New Coating: Coating Provides 1.2 Percent Absolute Enhancement to Triple Junction Solar Cells December 2nd, 2016

Deep insights from surface reactions: Researchers use Stampede supercomputer to study new chemical sensing methods, desalination and bacterial energy production December 2nd, 2016

Throwing new light on printed organic solar cells December 1st, 2016

Physics, photosynthesis and solar cells: Researchers combine quantum physics and photosynthesis to make discovery that could lead to highly efficient, green solar cells November 30th, 2016

Solar/Photovoltaic

Research Study: MetaSOLTM Shatters Solar Panel Efficiency Forecasts with Innovative New Coating: Coating Provides 1.2 Percent Absolute Enhancement to Triple Junction Solar Cells December 2nd, 2016

Throwing new light on printed organic solar cells December 1st, 2016

Physics, photosynthesis and solar cells: Researchers combine quantum physics and photosynthesis to make discovery that could lead to highly efficient, green solar cells November 30th, 2016

'Back to the Future' inspires solar nanotech-powered clothing November 15th, 2016

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE




  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project