BUFFALO, N.Y. Associated with unhappy visits to the dentist, "cavity" means something else in the branch of physics known as optics.
Put simply, an optical cavity is an arrangement of mirrors that allows beams of light to circulate in closed paths. These cavities help us build things like lasers and optical fibers used for communications.
Now, an international research team pushed the concept further by developing an optical "nanocavity" that boosts the amount of light that ultrathin semiconductors absorb. The advancement could lead to, among other things, more powerful photovoltaic cells and faster video cameras; it also could be useful for splitting water using energy from light, which could aid in the development of hydrogen fuel.
The team, comprised of faculty and students from the University at Buffalo and two Chinese universities, presented its findings Feb. 24 in the journal Advanced Materials. The paper, called "Nanocavity enhancement for ultra-thin film optical absorber," is available here: http://bit.ly/1bGGIbO.
"We're just scratching the surface, but the preliminary work that we've done is very promising," said Qiaoqiang Gan, PhD, lead author and UB assistant professor of electrical engineering. "This advancement could lead to major breakthroughs in energy harvesting and conversion, security and other areas that will benefit humankind."
Semiconductors form the basis of modern electronics. They work by manipulating the flow of energy in electronic devices. The most common semiconductor material, silicon, is used to make microchips for cellular phones, computers and other electronic devices.
Industry has kept pace with the demand for smaller, thinner and more powerful optoelectronic devices, in part, by shrinking the size of the semiconductors used in these devices.
The problem, however, is that these ultrathin semiconductors
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