A team of scientists and engineers has developed a new way of producing thin film perovskite semiconductors.
This ‘smart material’ can adapt depending on stimuli like light, magnetic fields or electric fields.
This could lead to the material being combined with other nano-scale materials to produce sensors, smart textiles and flexible electronics.
Thin films are usually made via epitaxy: atoms are placed on a substrate one layer at a time.
However, with this method the films stay attached to the host substrate and are less easily utilised. If it can be separated from the substrate it is much more useful.
The team, based at the University of Minnesota, has found a way to create a strontium titanate membrane without several of the usual freestanding membrane issues.
Making freestanding ‘smart’ oxide material membranes comes with certain challenges. Unlike 2D substances like graphene, smart oxide materials are bonded in 3 dimensions.
One way to make them is using remote epitaxy. Graphene is used as an intermediary between the substrate and the membrane. This allows the thin film material to be peeled off the substrate. One issue with this is when using the technique with metal oxides the graphene becomes oxidised and ruins the sample.
A new technique pioneered by the University of Minnesota is hybrid molecular beam epitaxy. This stops the oxidation process by using titanium that is already bonded to oxygen. The team has also been able to introduce automatic stoichiometric control, which no one else has been able to do.
The hope is in future to combine these thin film membranes to create more advanced smart materials. There are certain products already using thin films like gallium-oxide. Other alternatives to thin film include carbon nanotubes, which can be used in layers of only 0.06nm thickness.
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