The research is in its second year of internal Sandia funding and is based on Lonard's collaboration with the University of Wisconsin to explain the theoretical mechanism of carbon nanotube light detection. Lonard literally wrote the book on carbon nanotubesThe Physics of Carbon Nanotubes, published September 2008.
Lonard says the project draws upon Sandia's expertise in both materials physics and materials chemistry. He and Wong laid the groundwork with their theoretical research, with Wong completing the first-principles calculations that supported the hypothesis of how the chromophores were arranged on the nanotubes and how the chromophore isomerizations affected electronic properties of the devices.
To construct the device, Zhou and Krafcik first had to create a tiny transistor made from a single carbon nanotube. They deposited carbon nanotubes on a silicon wafer and then used photolithography to define electrical patterns to make contacts.
The final piece came from Vance and Zifer, who synthesized molecules to create three types of chromophores that respond to either the red, green, or orange bands of the visible spectrum. Zhou immersed the wafer in the dye solution and waited a few minutes while the chromophores attached themselves to the nanotubes.
The team reached their goal of detecting visible light faster than they expectedthey thought the entire first year of the project would be spent testing UV light. Now, they are looking to increase the efficiency by creating a device with multiple nanotubes.
"Detection is now limited to about 3 percent of sunlight, which isn't bad compared with a commercially available digital camera," says Zhou. "I hope to a
|Contact: Mike Janes|
DOE/Sandia National Laboratories