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U-M physicists create first atomic-scale map of quantum dots

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---University of Michigan physicists have created the first atomic-scale maps of quantum dots, a major step toward the goal of producing "designer dots" that can be tailored for specific applications.

Quantum dots---often called artificial atoms or nanoparticles---are tiny semiconductor crystals with wide-ranging potential applications in computing, photovoltaic cells, light-emitting devices and other technologies. Each dot is a well-ordered cluster of atoms, 10 to 50 atoms in diameter.

Engineers are gaining the ability to manipulate the atoms in quantum dots to control their properties and behavior, through a process called directed assembly. But progress has been slowed, until now, by the lack of atomic-scale information about the structure and chemical makeup of quantum dots.

The new atomic-scale maps will help fill that knowledge gap, clearing the path to more rapid progress in the field of quantum-dot directed assembly, said Roy Clarke, U-M professor of physics and corresponding author of a paper on the topic published online Sept. 27 in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Lead author of the paper is Divine Kumah of the U-M's Applied Physics Program, who conducted the research for his doctoral dissertation.

"I liken it to exploration in the olden days," Clarke said of dot mapping. "You find a new continent and initially all you see is the vague outline of something through the mist. Then you land on it and go into the interior and really map it out, square inch by square inch.

"Researchers have been able to chart the outline of these quantum dots for quite a while. But this is the first time that anybody has been able to map them at the atomic level, to go in and see where the atoms are positioned, as well as their chemical composition. It's a very significant breakthrough."

To create the maps, Clarke's team illuminated the dots with a brilliant X-ray photon beam at A

Contact: Jim Erickson
University of Michigan

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