PHILADELPHIA When semiconductor nanorods are exposed to light, they blink in a seemingly random pattern. By clustering nanorods together, physicists at the University of Pennsylvania have shown that their combined "on" time is increased dramatically providing new insight into this mysterious blinking behavior.
The research was conducted by associate professor Marija Drndic's group, including graduate student Siying Wang and postdoctorial fellows Claudia Querner and Tali Dadosh, all of the Department of Physics and Astronomy in Penn's School of Arts and Sciences. They collaborated with Catherine Crouch of Swarthmore College and Dmitry Novikov of New York University's School of Medicine.
Their research was published in the journal Nature Communications.
When provided with energy, whether in the form of light, electricity or certain chemicals, many semiconductors emit light. This principle is at work in light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, which are found in any number of consumer electronics.
At the macro scale, this electroluminescence is consistent; LED light bulbs, for example, can shine for years with a fraction of the energy used by even compact-fluorescent bulbs. But when semiconductors are shrunk down to nanometer size, instead of shining steadily, they turn "on" and "off" in an unpredictable fashion, switching between emitting light and being dark for variable lengths of time. For the decade since this was observed, many research groups around the world have sought to uncover the mechanism of this phenomenon, which is still not completely understood.
"Blinking has been studied in many different nanoscale materials for over a decade, as it is surprising and intriguing, but it's the statistics of the blinking that are so unusual," Drndic said. "These nanorods can be 'on' and 'off' for all scales of time, from a microsecond to hours. That's why we worked with Dmitry Novikov, who studies stochastic phenomena in
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University of Pennsylvania