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Quantum Dots: Applications in Modern Technology
K. Li and R. Lan Optical Engineering Dr. K. Daneshvar July 13, 2007
and too inefficient. The discovery of quantum dots presents the possibility of faster. They can be tuned and adjusted for many applications. fall short of our needs and expectations. sometimes called pseudoatoms. including some in optics. too slow. medicine. and more reliable semiconductors. Quantum dots. and quantum computation. however. They are too large.Quantum Dots Abstract: As technology moves forward. Conventional semiconductors. smaller. explain the methods of creation. the need for semiconductors becomes more and more apparent. 2 . mimic the structure of atoms. This paper will introduce the concepts behind quantum dots. and explore applications in modern technology.
the concepts of energy levels and bandgap energy apply. their conductivity changes in relation to external stimuli. which then allows the material to conduct a current. In conductors. (evidenttech) Because quantum dots are semiconductor materials. When this happens. a quantum dot must be smaller than the exciton Bohr radius of . energy levels are considered to be continuous because almost no energy difference exists between each individual level. These dots can range in size from 2 nanometers to 10 nanometers in diameter. the electron in the conduction band and the hole in the valence band it leaves behind are bound together and collectively called an exciton. confining them to a tiny area around the dot. its energy levels will become discrete. In bulk semiconductors. The bandgap determines how much energy is required to elevate an electron from the valence band into the conduction band. quantum dots are sometimes called artificial atoms or pseudo-atoms. The existence of discrete energy levels around quantum dots can be explained by the exciton Bohr radius. In semiconductors and insulators. much like individual atoms. (evidenttech) Quantum dots on the other hand have distinct energy levels. Different materials have different exciton Bohr radii. For this reason. By definition. As a semiconductor crystal becomes smaller than its exciton Bohr radius. which scientists define as the space between the conduction band and the valence band of an atom where electrons cannot propagate.000 individual atoms. with the entire dot encompassing 100 to 100.Quantum Dots 3 Quantum dots are minuscule semiconductor nanostructures that limit electron movement in all three spatial directions. which is the average distance between an electron and the hole it leaves behind when it enters the conduction band. The conductivity of a material depends primarily on the bandgap. a large bandgap usually exists and external energy is required in order to energize an electron into the conduction band beyond the bandgap. the bandgap is small or does not exist and current freely passes through the material. however. Because quantum dots are semiconductors.
corresponding to a longer wavelength of light. causing the color to move towards the red end of the visible light spectrum. (Nanoscienceworks) Thus. they will reform into bulk material. and most importantly the size of the dot. As dots become larger. the wavelength becomes shorter and the coloration shifts towards the blue end of the spectrum. and colloidal synthesis. a larger dot requires less energy to create an exciton and will release less energy when the electron returns to the valance band. 2006) Theoretically. a quantum dot could yield as many as seven excitons for each photon. changing the bandgap and thus the energy required for an electron to cross it. As dots become smaller. Thus. electron beam lithography. This is because as a quantum dot grows larger.Quantum Dots the material with which it is made out of. which means that they produce many excitons for each high-energy photon that they absorb. Altering the size of a quantum dot will change the distances between energy levels. Thus. raising the possibility that they could be used in highly efficient photovoltaic cells and high yield lasers. Scientists can produce quantum dots through several methods including molecular beam epitaxy. If quantum dots begin to cluster. its energy levels move closer together. has important repercussions on the absorptive and 4 emissive behavior of the semiconductor material. scientists can control the wavelength and energy of the light emitted by a quantum dot by tuning its size. Studies show that quantum dots have a high quantum yield. (evidenttech) One special property of quantum dots is that they emit light at very specific wavelengths depending on several factors including shape. the material makeup. Molecular beam epitaxy is a method that deposits layers . (Weiss. quantum dots must form in a host medium that keeps the dots separated. scientists must ensure that individual dots do not come in contact with each other. The existence of discrete energy levels around a quantum dot. the wavelength of light they emit becomes longer. When fabricating quantum dots. called quantum confinement.
MBE and EBL are both costly and high maintenance processes. the machinery required for this process is quite expensive and the process itself is very time consuming. The beam of vapor then condenses and combines on a wafer. This process allows for control over the positioning of individual quantum dots. unique structures may form. When the lattice structures of the crystals and substrate do not match. However. the pattern is an array of holes. In this process. This is accomplished via liquid nitrogen pumps. By applying voltage. A computer controls the thickness of each crystal layer. the electrons can be confined. namely quantum dots. slowly depositing layers of individual crystals on the surface. Another process that can create individual quantum dots is electron beam lithography. In order to mass-produce quantum dots. The quantum dots formed through MBE lend themselves to quantum cryptography and quantum computation. They are called “beams” because the high vacuum prevents them from interacting with other particles until they reach the wafer. the cost of this process is high and the positioning of the dots is random and cannot be controlled. similar to the process used in photolithography. pure elements are heated in a vacuum chamber until they begin to evaporate. which means that no vacuum or extreme temperatures are . scientists use a process called colloidal synthesis. Usually. vacuum levels must be significantly higher to deposit 5 crystals under these conditions. forming “beams” of evaporated atoms. In other systems. including structures that confine the movement of electrons. The reason this process for this is its low cost and low toxicity. where quantum dots will be formed.Quantum Dots of crystals on a wafer. Unfortunately. wafers are loaded onto rotating platters that are heated to several hundred degrees Celsius. However. resulting in a quantum dot. In some systems the chamber must be chilled to a temperature of –196 degrees Celsius. and then deposits conducting material on top. It can also occur at standard temperature and pressure. This process uses a beam of electrons to etch a pattern onto a semiconductor chip.
The light bounces around the optical cavity. lasers only used bulk materials in the gain medium. Beginning in the 1980s. making the light very powerful. are dispersed in solution and come together to form quantum dots. Quantum dot lasers also have high . Lasers function by amplifying light inside an optical cavity before allowing the light to exit the laser in a concentrated beam. Prior to the 1970s. reducing the amount of power consumed by operating the laser. Coherent light is a beam where each particle has the same wavelength and is aligned in the same way. Quantum dots have many applications in optics such as in semiconductor lasers or light emitting diodes (LEDs). Controlling the size allows scientists to engineer the properties of the dots because the size of the dot affects the amount of energy required to cross the bandgap. passing through a gain medium that has optical amplifying properties. To amplify the light. researchers predicted that lasers using quantum dots as their principle gain medium would operate more efficiently than conventional semiconductor lasers. The use of quantum dots in the gain medium lowers the threshold current required to activate the laser. (Loyola. 1999) Today's quantum dot lasers are capable of operating at high speeds and efficiencies. Semiconductor lasers are key components in technological products requiring optical scanning such as compact disk players and laser printers. Their size is proportional to how long the quantum dots remain in the solution. but with the discovery of nanostructures. scientists began considering lasers that take advantage of quantum properties.Quantum Dots 6 required for this method of fabrication. usually from groups two and four of the periodic table. The solution ensures that the dots do not clump together and form bulk material. This process is also favored because it allows scientists to control the size of the quantum dots. (Nanoscienceworks) Pure elements. a pumping mechanism supplies energy to the gain medium in order to achieve the stimulated emission required to form a beam of coherent light.
the phosphors cannot efficiently absorb radiation at that wavelength. Because quantum dots are able to generate light efficiently at specific wavelengths.Quantum Dots adjustability because scientists can manipulate the wavelength that the laser emits by changing the size of the quantum dots used in the active layer. Conventional fluorescent lights emit UV radiation that has wavelength of 400 nanometers that is absorbed by a coating of phosphor. A 7 drawback to the quantum dot laser. the development of quantum dot lasers reduced the impact that temperature had on the performance of the laser. but unlike the conventional phosphor layer. researchers in Japan developed a quantum dot laser that operates at 10 gigabits per second (Fujitsu 2004). Quantum dot nanophosphors in LEDs work in a way similar to that of traditional phosphor coatings. conventional semiconductor LEDs must contain a carefully prepared mixture of red. however. Previous semiconductor lasers. and green emitting materials. causing the laser to lose efficiency. it is possible for a single quantum dot . experienced sharp drops in output at elevated temperatures. In 2004. scientists can engineer quantum dots to efficiently absorb any wavelength of light depending on their size. (Sandia Corporation – quantum dots as a new approach to solid-state lighting) In order to produce white light. which then emits visible white light. Such mixtures are costly to make and cannot compete with conventional fluorescent lighting. they may very well be the basis for next generation light bulbs. is that all the dots used in the gain medium must be of high quality and uniform size or else the medium will act like bulk material. requiring input of a coolant. Utilizing chemical changes that change the size of the dots. Thus. blue. However. Special LEDs coated with quantum dots have been found to be more efficient and emit up to 60% more light than conventional LEDs. called strained quantum-well lasers. This laser can operate without fluctuations in performance at temperatures from 20 degrees Celsius to 70 degrees Celsius.
Solar cells are relatively easy to maintain and are environmentally friendly. However. Scientists can also increase the intensity of light emitted by increasing the concentration of quantum dots in the coating around the 8 LED.Quantum Dot Solar Cells) The bandgap that produces the best solar energy conversion is what researchers are striving for. Quantum dots produced by colloidal synthesis are suspended in solution. they tend to clump together. They can be made with protective shells and do . Quantum dots also have the advantage of being more stable and longer-lasting than standard photovoltaic cells. In order to prevent this. it is possible to raise the theoretical yield of a solar cell by almost 30%. One drawback is that when the quantum dots are made to coat the LED.Quantum Dots to emit multiple colors. By using quantum dots. The world's oil resources are running out and scientists have been searching for efficient alternative energy sources. with the rest lost as heat. conventional solar cells are expensive and can only use 30% of the sunlight that reaches the cells. (EvidentTech . allowing researchers to tune their absorptive properties to optimum efficiency. It has been established that quantum dots with larger bandgaps will produce greater output voltage toward electricity generation. This is due to the fact that conventional solar cells can only absorb certain wavelengths of the suns's energy. In addition to having tunable bandgaps. and that dots with smaller bandgaps will produce less voltage but more current towards electricity generation. making it easier to mold them into any form. One of the more exciting applications of quantum dots is the fabrication of super efficient solar cells. they must be bonded to the "backbone" of the encapsulating polymer. Quantum dots can have their bandgaps altered. quantum dots are also more flexible in form. losing their light emitting properties. The dots used in LEDs will be engineered to absorb the 400 nanometer wavelength light and emit light in the visible spectrum.
Quantum dots can act like the transistors of a normal computer. Continuing research will also aim to control the spins of each dot. Quantum theory states that it is possible for objects like atoms and electrons to exist in two states at the same time. There are several disadvantages to these techniques. sometimes called "qubits". The information is transferred via transistors. Another application of quantum dots is the quantum computer. 2001) Quantum bits would be able to process all on and off combinations simultaneously. and then proceed with the operation. (Chang. based on its electrons. A quantum computer would utilize quantum bits. which can be "on" or "off". (Chang. 2001) One obstacle that still needs to be overcome is scaling such devices up to workable computers. Each dot can be a 1 or a 0. Super efficient solar cells using quantum dots may be the solution to the world's energy crisis. doctors can shine infrared light on the person and the dots in . Conventional computers process information in terms of binary bits. get another MRI scan done. The properties of quantum dots can solve these problems. each dot defining a single qubit. Surgeons often must stop in the middle of an operation. Electrons have a "spin" of either up or down.Quantum Dots not need to be replaced as often as conventional solar cells. which corresponds to a 1 or a 0. not just to detect them. Conventional techniques use organic dyes and MRI scans to locate tumors when diagnosing and removing diseased tissue. Another important application of quantum dots is in biomedical imaging. for instance diseased cells. researchers have been able to identify the spin of two qubits linked together by analyzing the 9 flow of electricity through the dots. representing a 1 or a 0. The light emitted by organic dyes is not very bright and the dyes degrade quickly. It is possible to inject a person with specially prepared quantum dots that attach themselves to specific types of cells. So far. Once the dots attach themselves to the cells. This is sometimes accomplished by having macrophages deliver the dots to the diseased area.
Quantum dots have the potential to revolutionize many fields in modern science and technology. Minor drawbacks include the irregular blinking of quantum dots and the toxicity of the elements used to make quantum dot dyes. they have optical properties that bulk materials cannot replicate. Due to their high quantum yield. (Weiss. doctors will not have to suspend operations to get more MRI scans. . Although research is still being conducted in methods of fabrication and applications.Quantum Dots the affected area will emit visible light. As nanostructures. the dots will emit a 10 bright light. Their lifetimes are also orders of magnitude longer than conventional dyes. quantum dots have already demonstrated substantial success and efficiency. 2005) With quantum dot dyes. Quantum dot dyes can also be used to study biological processes in healthy cells.
2007. 6.htm (2003. Retrieved Jul. (2005). 2007.org/wiki/Electron_beam_lithography.wikipedia. 2007.gov/news-center/news-releases/2003/elect-semi-sensors/quantum. Quantum dots explained.sandia. 6. Sandia researchers use quantum dots as a new approach to solid-state lighting. Retrieved July 10. Retrieved Jul. 2007. 6.org/wiki/Molecular_beam_epitaxy.fujitsu.org/nanopedia/quantum-dot Quantum Dot. Science. Quantum Dot. A (2001). from Chapter 5: Quantum Dot Lasers Web site: http://www. 2007. from Fujitsu Ltd. 2007. 2007. Evident Technologies. July 14th). from NanoScienceWorks Web site: http://www.wtec.the free encyclopedia Web site: http://en.wikipedia. University of Tokyo Develop World's First 10Gbps Quantum 11 Dot Laser Featuring Breakthrough Temperature-Independent Output. Retrieved Jul.html Molecular beam epitaxy.html Weiss. June 3).Quantum Dots References Chang.org/loyola/nano/05_04.com/qdot-definition/quantum-dotabout. (2006. Retrieved Jul. from Wikipedia . (2004. Fujitsu. (2005). (2005).com/global/news/pr/archives/month/2004/20040910-01. September). 2007. (2004).nanoscienceworks.php. P. 6. Retrieved July 10. Web site: http://www. 293 Electron beam lithography. Retrieved July 11. Retrieved July 9.Kondo effect in an artificial quantum dot molecule.wikipedia. from Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia Web site: http://en.evidenttech. Quantum Dot Lasers. from Sandia National Laboratories Web site: http://www. from Wikipedia: the Free Encyclopedia Web site: http://en. September 10th). Quantum Dot Leap: Tapping tiny crystals’ inexplicable light harvesting . from Evident Technologies Web site: http://www.org/wiki/Quantum_dot. (1999.
Science News. 169. Vol. 12 .Quantum Dots talent. No. 22.
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