Researchers have used zinc oxide microwires to significantly improve the efficiency at which gallium nitride light-emitting diodes (LED) convert electricity to ultraviolet light. The devices are believed to be the first LEDs whose performance has been enhanced by the creation of an electrical charge in a piezoelectric material using the piezo-phototronic effect.
By applying mechanical strain to the microwires, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology created a piezoelectric potential in the wires, and that potential was used to tune the charge transport and enhance carrier injection in the LEDs. This control of an optoelectronic device with piezoelectric potential, known as piezo-phototronics, represents another example of how materials that have both piezoelectric and semiconducting properties can be controlled mechanically.
"By utilizing this effect, we can enhance the external efficiency of these devices by a factor of more than four times, up to eight percent," said Zhong Lin Wang, a Regents professor in the Georgia Tech School of Materials Science and Engineering. "From a practical standpoint, this new effect could have many impacts for electro-optical processes including improvements in the energy efficiency of lighting devices."
Details of the research were reported in the Sept. 14 issue of the journal Nano Letters. The research was sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). In addition to Wang, the research team mainly included Qing Yang, a visiting scientist at Georgia Tech from the Department of Optical Engineering at Zhejiang University in China.
Because of the polarization of ions in the crystals of piezoelectric materials such as zinc oxide, mechanically compressing or otherwise straining structures made from the materials creates a piezoelectric potential an electrical charge. In the gallium nitride LEDs, the researchers u
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Georgia Institute of Technology Research News