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The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
  • 2017-01-10 10:05:18
  • Article ID: 667412

New Properties Discovered in Atom-Wide Troughs

Scientists found that removing lines of atoms in thin electronic materials creates "veins" that could benefit solar panels and more.

  • Credit: Image courtesy of Molecular Foundry, Berkeley Lab

    Scientists made a discovery relevant to the electronic and optical properties of thin materials. Lines of missing atoms that cross the surface like veins function as “wires” to channel electrons and packets of light called photons, improving the material’s ability to conduct electricity and convert light. The defects are located between parallel lines in the microscopy image (left). Zooming in (right image) shows two parallel lines of high charge density on either side of the linear defect producing the wire. The theoretical atomic structure (right, bottom) shows the missing line of selenium atoms in gold.

The Science

Could adding defects make a good material even better? Scientists have found that linear defects in a promising thin film create one-atom-thick metallic wires. These wires cross the otherwise intact material, offering a way to channel electrons and photons, tiny packets of light. A multidisciplinary team made this discovery using resources at the Molecular Foundry and the Advanced Light Source.

The Impact

The team worked with transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) because the materials have exceptional optical characteristics. This research found that a single TMD layer could emit as much light as an equivalent material that is 10,000 times thicker, paving the way toward smaller, more efficient devices. Further, the team found that engineering defects (purposely introducing missing or displaced atoms) into TMDs could modify their intrinsic properties. These modifications might improve the material or lead to altogether new useful properties for future energy conversion, quantum computing and communication systems.

Summary

In the world of semiconductors, impurities and defects can be a good thing. They modify the properties of materials such as silicon, and scientists can exploit these properties to develop better transistors for laptop computers, smart phones, and solar cells. Recently, scientists discovered a new class of semiconductor that is only three atoms thick and extends in a two-dimensional plane, similar to graphene. These two-dimensional semiconductors, called transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs), have exceptional optical characteristics. They can be developed into ultra-sensitive photodetectors, and a single TMD layer emits as much light as a three-dimensional TMD crystal composed of 10,000 layers.

For the past several years, scientists have wondered if impurities and defects could also modify TMDs’ intrinsic properties, perhaps in ways that improve the semiconductor or lead to new functionalities. Scientists at the Molecular Foundry, in collaboration with researchers at the Advanced Light Source, have taken a big step towards answering this question. They found -- to their surprise -- how substantial linear defects in TMDs create entirely new properties. Some of these properties indicate that defects in TMDs might even mediate superconducting states.

The team synthesized three-atom-thick, clean layers of molybdenum diselenide, which is a type of TMD. They then studied the material with a microscope that can visualize atoms and their electronic wave functions. They discovered a linear defect formed by a line of missing selenium atoms. This defect creates one-atom-thick metallic wires to transport electrons or photons across the otherwise intact semiconductor like veins.

Funding

Work at the Molecular Foundry was supported by the Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) under contract DE-AC02-05CH11231 (user proposal #3282) (scanning transmission microscopy (STM) imaging, STM spectroscopy, theoretical simulations, and analysis). A.W.B. and S.W. were supported by the DOE, Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences, Scientific User Facilities Division Early Career Award. S.B. acknowledges fellowship support by the European Union under FP7-PEOPLE-2012-IOF-327581. Advanced Light Source and SIMES were supported by Office of Basic Energy Science, DOEnder contracts DE-AC02-05CH11231 and DE-AC02-76SF00515, respectively. H.R. acknowledges support from the Max Planck Korea/POSTECH Research Initiative of the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) under Project No. NRF-2011-0031558. M.B.S. was supported by the DOE, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Division of Materials Science and Engineering through the Chemical and Mechanical Properties of Surfaces and Interfaces Program. Portions of the computational work were done with National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center resources. M.F.C. acknowledges support from National Science Foundation grant EFMA-1542741 (sample surface preparation development).

Publications

S. Barja, S. Wickenburg, Z.F. Liu, Y. Zhang, H. Ryu, M.M. Ugeda, Z. Hussain, Z.X. Shen, S.K. Mo, E. Wong, M.B. Salmeron, F. Wang, M.F. Crommie, D.F. Ogletree, J.B. Neaton, and A. Weber-Bargioni, “Charge density wave order in 1D mirror twin boundaries of single-layer MoSe2.” Nature Physics 12, 751–756 (2016). [DOI: 10.1038/nphys3730]

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A Berkeley Lab-led team of researchers has reported that a new lithium-sulfur battery component allows a doubling in capacity compared to a conventional lithium-sulfur battery, even after more than 100 charge cycles.

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X-Rays Reveal 'Handedness' in Swirling Electric Vortices

Scientists used spiraling X-rays at Berkeley Lab to observe, for the first time, a property that gives left- or right-handedness to swirling electric patterns - dubbed polar vortices - in a layered material called a superlattice.

Breaking Bad Metals with Neutrons

By combining the latest developments in neutron scattering and theory, researchers are close to predicting phenomena like superconductivity and magnetism in strongly correlated electron systems. It is likely that the next advances in superconductivity and magnetism will come from such systems, but they might also be used in completely new ways such as quantum computing.

ORNL Researchers Use Titan to Accelerate Design, Training of Deep Learning Networks

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Dark Energy Survey Publicly Releases First Three Years of Data

At a special session held during the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington, D.C., scientists on the Dark Energy Survey (DES) announced today the public release of their first three years of data. This first major release of data from the Survey includes information on about 400 million astronomical objects, including distant galaxies billions of light-years away as well as stars in our own galaxy.

Ingredients for Life Revealed in Meteorites That Fell to Earth

A detailed study of blue salt crystals found in two meteorites that crashed to Earth - which included X-ray experiments at Berkeley Lab - found that they contain both liquid water and a mix of complex organic compounds including hydrocarbons and amino acids.


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Superconducting X-Ray Laser Takes Shape in Silicon Valley

An area known for high-tech gadgets and innovation will soon be home to an advanced superconducting X-ray laser that stretches 3 miles in length, built by a collaboration of national laboratories. On January 19, the first section of the machine's new accelerator arrived by truck at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park after a cross-country journey that began in Batavia, Illinois, at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

Kelsey Stoerzinger Earns Young Investigator Lectureship

Kelsey Stoerzinger, Pauling Fellow at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, is one of the 2018 Caltech Young Investigator Lecturers in Engineering and Applied Physics.

North Dakota State University Joins Two National Distributed Computing Groups

The NDSU Center for Computationally Assisted Science and Technology (CCAST) joins OSG (Open Science Grid) and XSEDE (Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment).

DOE Announces Funding for New HPC4Manufacturing Industry Projects

The Department of Energy's Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) today announced the funding of $1.87 million for seven new industry projects under an ongoing initiative designed to utilize DOE's high-performance computing (HPC) resources and expertise to advance U.S. manufacturing and clean energy technologies.

DOE Announces First Awardees for New HPC4Materials for Severe Environments Program

The Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy (FE) today announced the funding of $450,000 for the first two private-public partnerships under a brand-new initiative aimed at discovering, designing and scaling up production of novel materials for severe environments.

Two Argonne Scientists Recognized for a Decade of Breakthroughs

Two scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have been named to the Web of Science's Highly Cited List of 2017, ranking in the top 1 percent of their peers by citations and subject area. Materials Scientist Khalil Amine and Energy and Environmental Policy Scientist David Streets say they are thrilled to see their work -- and the laboratory -- recognized in such a way.

Argonne Welcomes Department of Energy Secretary Perry

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry visited Argonne National Laboratory yesterday, getting a first-hand view of the multifaceted and interdisciplinary research program laboratory of the Department.

Argonne names John Quintana Deputy Laboratory Director for Operations and COO

John Quintana has been named Deputy Laboratory Director for Operations and Chief Operations Officer (COO) of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory.

Developing Next-Generation Sensing Technologies

Recently, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) announced $20 million in funding for 15 projects that will develop a new class of sensor systems to enable significant energy savings via reduced demand for heating and cooling in residential and commercial buildings.

Supporting the Development of Offshore Wind Power Plants

Offshore wind is becoming a reality in the United States, especially in the northeast states. To support this development, the Center for Future Energy System (CFES) at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute will present a webinar titled "Turbine and Transmission System Technologies for Offshore Wind (OSW) Power Plants." The program will be held on Wednesday, Dec. 20, from 2 to 4 p.m. Advance registration is required.


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Exploring Past, Present, and Future Water Availability Regionally, Globally

New open-source software simulates river and runoff resources.

Arctic Photosynthetic Capacity and Carbon Dioxide Assimilation Underestimated by Terrestrial Biosphere Models

New measurements offer data vital to projecting plant response to environmental changes.

DRIFTing to Fast, Precise Data

Non-destructive technique identifies key variations in Alaskan soils, quickly providing insights into carbon levels.

Superconducting Tokamaks Are Standing Tall

Plasma physicists significantly improve the vertical stability of a Korean fusion device.

Graphene Flexes Its Muscle

Crumpling reduces rigidity in an otherwise stiff material, making it less prone to catastrophic failure.

Remotely Predicting Leaf Age in Tropical Forests

New approach offers data across species, sites, and canopies, providing insights into carbon uptake by forests.

What's the Noise Eating Quantum Bits?

The magnetic noise caused by adsorbed oxygen molecules is "eating at" the phase stability of quantum bits, mitigating the noise is vital for future quantum computers.

Rewritable Wires Could Mean No More Obsolete Circuitry

An electric field switches the conductivity on and off in atomic-scale channels, which could allow for upgrades at will.

Filtering Water Better than Nature

Water passes through human-made straws faster than the "gold standard" protein, allowing us to filter seawater.

Machine Learning Provides a Bridge to the Texture of the Quantum World

Machine learning and neural networks are the foundation of artificial intelligence and image recognition, but now they offer a bridge to see and recognize exotic insulating phases in quantum materials.


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