Researchers at Houston’s Rice University have published a paper detailing an atom-thin layer of semiconductor antimony paired with ferroelectric indium selenide that has potential use for applications in solar energy and quantum computing (QC). The findings were published by lead author Dr Boris Yakobson, researcher Jun-Jie Zhang and graduate student Dongyang Zhu in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters.
Antimony (Sb/atomic number 51) is a shiny grey-coloured metalloid; the semiconductor indium selenide, meanwhile, is a compound of indium (In/atomic number 49) and selenium (In/atomic number 34).
“The ability to switch at will the material’s electronic band structure is a very attractive knob. The strong coupling between ferroelectric state and topological order can help: the applied voltage switches the topology through the ferroelectric polarization, which serves as an intermediary. This provides a new paradigm for device engineering and control,” said Yakobson, who holds the Karl F. Hasselmann Chair in Engineering at Rice University.
“Turning the field inward would make the material good for solar panels. Turning it outward could make it useful as a spintronic device for quantum computing.”
— Boris Yakobson & team
This two-dimensional material exhibits, depending on the side and polarization by an external electric field, unique properties. According to the team, ‘the field could be used to stabilize indium selenide’s polarization, a long-sought property that tends to be wrecked by internal fields in materials like perovskites but would be highly useful for solar energy applications’. Yakobson et al reported that moving the field inward would create material suitable for solar panels while turning the field outward has latent possibilities for a spintronic device for quantum computing.
“The central selenium atoms shift along with switching ferroelectric polarization,” said Zhang. “This kind of switching in indium selenide has been observed in recent experiments.”
The team also believes the switching material could be quite easy to make in contrast to other materials, for example — boron buckyballs — that scientists have come up with and manufactured in the past.
“As opposed to typical bulk solids, easy exfoliation of van der Waals crystals along the low surface energy plane realistically allows their reassembly into heterobilayers, opening new possibilities like the one we discovered here,” said Zhang.
Yakobson and his team’s findings are sure to appeal to some in the space, as well as firmly placing Rice University on the quantum information science (QIS) map. But still, we have a long way to go until the antimony/indium selenide pairing — or any other pairing for that matter — brings value to the quantum tech industry.