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Chemistry New Use for an Old Friend: Nanoribbons Based on Silicon Behavce Just Like Graphene

| Author / Editor: Prof. Kristie Koski * / Sebastian Gerstl

Chemists from Brown University have found a way to make new 2-D, graphene-like semiconducting nanomaterials using an old standby of the semiconductor world: silicon.

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A new process for an old standby. By adjusting the fabrication technique, researchers can make different semiconductor structures, including nanoplates that lie flat or stand upright.
A new process for an old standby. By adjusting the fabrication technique, researchers can make different semiconductor structures, including nanoplates that lie flat or stand upright.
(Source: Koski lab/Brown University)

In a paper the researchers describe methods for making nanoribbons and nanoplates from a compound called silicon telluride. The materials are pure, p-type semiconductors (positive charge carriers) that could be used in a variety of electronic and optical devices. Their layered structure can take up lithium and magnesium, meaning it could also be used to make electrodes in those types of batteries.

"Silicon-based compounds are the backbone of modern electronics processing," said Kristie Koski, assistant professor of chemistry at Brown, who led the work. "Silicon telluride is in that family of compounds, and we’ve shown a totally new method for using it to make layered, two-dimensional nanomaterials."

The Fascinating World of Nano Composites
Gallery with 23 images

Koski and her team synthesized the new materials through vapor deposition in a tube furnace. When heated in the tube, silicon and tellurium vaporize and react to make a precursor compound that is deposited on a substrate by an argon carrier gas. The silicon telluride then grows from the precursor compound.

The Material's Crystalline with Different Properties

Different structures can be made by varying the furnace temperature and using different treatments of the substrate. By tweaking the process, the researchers made nanoribbons that are about 50 to 1,000 nanometers in width and about 10 microns long. They also made nanoplates flat on the substrate and standing upright.

"We see the standing plates a lot," Koski said. "They’re half hexagons sitting upright on the substrate. They look a little like a graveyard." Each of the different shapes has a different orientation of the material’s crystalline structure. As a result, they all have different properties and could be used in different applications.

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