The properties of carbon-based nanomaterials could be altered and engineered by way of the deliberate introduction of sure structural “imperfections” or defects. The problem, nevertheless, is to regulate the quantity and kind of those defects. In the case of carbon nanotubes — microscopically small tubular compounds that emit mild within the near-infrared — chemists and supplies scientists at Heidelberg University led by Prof. Dr Jana Zaumseil have now demonstrated a brand new response pathway to allow such defect management. It leads to particular optically lively defects — so-called sp3 defects — that are extra luminescent and might emit single photons, that’s, particles of sunshine. The environment friendly emission of near-infrared mild is necessary for functions in telecommunication and organic imaging.
Usually defects are thought-about one thing “bad” that negatively impacts the properties of a fabric, making it much less good. However, in sure nanomaterials resembling carbon nanotubes these “imperfections” can lead to one thing “good” and allow new functionalities. Here, the exact sort of defects is essential. Carbon nanotubes include rolled-up sheets of a hexagonal lattice of sp2 carbon atoms, as additionally they happen in benzene. These hole tubes are about one nanometer in diameter and as much as a number of micrometers lengthy.
Through sure chemical reactions, just a few sp2 carbon atoms of the lattice could be changed into sp3 carbon, which can also be present in methane or diamond. This adjustments the native digital construction of the carbon nanotube and leads to an optically lively defect. These sp3 defects emit mild even additional within the near-infrared and are general extra luminescent than nanotubes that haven’t been functionalised. Due to the geometry of carbon nanotubes, the exact place of the launched sp3 carbon atoms determines the optical properties of the defects. “Unfortunately, so far there has been very little control over what defects are formed,” says Jana Zaumseil, who’s a professor on the Institute for Physical Chemistry and a member of the Centre for Advanced Materials at Heidelberg University.
The Heidelberg scientist and her workforce lately demonstrated a brand new chemical response pathway that permits defect management and the selective creation of just one particular sort of sp3 defect. These optically lively defects are “better” than any of the beforehand launched “imperfections.” Not solely are they extra luminescent, additionally they present single-photon emission at room temperature, Prof. Zaumseil explains. In this course of, just one photon is emitted at a time, which is a prerequisite for quantum cryptography and extremely safe telecommunication.
According to Simon Settele, a doctoral scholar in Prof. Zaumseil’s analysis group and the primary creator on the paper reporting these outcomes, this new functionalisation technique — a nucleophilic addition — could be very easy and doesn’t require any particular tools. “We are only just starting to explore the potential applications. Many chemical and photophysical aspects are still unknown. However, the goal is to create even better defects.”
This analysis is a part of the undertaking “Trions and sp3-Defects in Single-walled Carbon Nanotubes for Optoelectronics” (TRIFECTs), led by Prof. Zaumseil and funded by an ERC Consolidator Grant of the European Research Council (ERC). Its objective is to know and engineer the digital and optical properties of defects in carbon nanotubes.
“The chemical differences between these defects are subtle and the desired binding configuration is usually only formed in a minority of nanotubes. Being able to produce large numbers of nanotubes with a specific defect and with controlled defect densities paves the way for optoelectronic devices as well as electrically pumped single-photon sources, which are needed for future applications in quantum cryptography,” Prof. Zaumseil says.
Also concerned on this analysis have been scientists from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and the Munich Center for Quantum Science and Technology.