Rubio has been working with boron nitride nanotubes for nearly 20 years. "We proposed them theoretically, and then they were found experimentally. So far, all our theoretical predictions have been confirmed, and that is very gratifying," he explained. Once the properties of layered hexagonal boron nitride and its extremely high efficiency in light emission were known, this research sought to show that these properties are not lost in nanotubes. "We knew that when a sheet was rolled up and a tube was formed, a strong coupling was produced with the electric field and that would enable us to change the light emission. We wanted to show," and they did in fact show, "that light emission efficiency was not being lost due to the fact that the nanotube was formed, and that it is also controllable."
The device functions on the basis of the use of natural (or induced) defects in boron nitride nanotubes. In particular, the defects enabling controlled emission are the gaps that appear in the wall of the nanotube due to the absence of a boron atom, which is the most common defect in its manufacture. "All nanotubes are very similar, but the fact that you have these defects makes the system operational and efficient, and what is more, the more defects you have, the better it functions."
Rubio highlighted "the simplicity" of the device proposed. "It's a device that functions with defects, it does not have to be pure, and it's very easy to build and control." Nanotubes can be synthesised using standard methods in the scientific community for producing inorganic nanotubes; the structures synthesised as a result have natural defects, and it is possible to incorporate more if you want by means of simple, post-synthesis irradiatio
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