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Engineers enable ‘bulk’ silicon to emit visible light for the first time

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Posted March 28, 2013
This is a schematic of silicon nanowire integrated with an omega-shaped metal nanocavity. Credit: University of Pennsylvania

This is a schematic of silicon nanowire integrated with an omega-shaped metal nanocavity. Credit: University of Pennsylvania

Electronic computing speeds are brushing up against limits imposed by the laws of physics. Photonic computing, where photons replace comparatively slow electrons in representing information, could surpass those limitations, but the components of such computers require semiconductors that can emit light.

Now, research from the University of Pennsylvania has enabled “bulk” silicon to emit broad-spectrum, visible light for the first time, opening the possibility of using the element in devices that have both electronic and photonic components.

The research was conducted by associate professor Ritesh Agarwal, postdoctoral fellow Chang-Hee Cho and graduate students Carlos O. Aspetti and Joohee Park, all of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering in Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Their work was published in Nature Photonics.

Certain semiconductors, when imparted with energy, in turn emit light; they directly produce photons, instead of producing heat. This phenomenon is commonplace and used in light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, which are ubiquitous in traffic signals, new types of light bulbs, computer displays and other electronic and optoelectronic devices. Getting the desired photonic properties often means finding the right semiconducting material. Agarwal’s group produced the first ever all-optical switch out of cadmium sulfide nanowires, for example.

Read more at: Phys.org

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