Imagine a home with “smart” walls responsive to the environment in the room, a digital camera sensitive enough to work in the dark, or clothing with the capacity to turn the sun’s power into electrical energy. Researchers at University of Toronto have invented an infrared-sensitive material that could shortly turn these possibilities into realities.
In a paper to be published on the Nature Materials website Jan. 9, senior author Professor Ted Sargent, Nortel Networks – Canada Research Chair in Emerging Technologies at U of T’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and his team report on their achievement in tailoring matter to harvest the sun’s invisible rays.
“We made particles from semiconductor crystals which were exactly two, three or four nanometres in size. The nanoparticles were so small they remained dispersed in everyday solvents just like the particles in paint,” explains Sargent. Then, they tuned the tiny nanocrystals to catch light at very long wavelengths. The result – a sprayable infrared detector.
Existing technology has given us solution-processible, light-sensitive materials that have made large, low-cost solar cells, displays, and sensors possible, but these materials have so far only worked in the visible light spectrum, says Sargent. “These same functions are needed in the infrared for many imaging applications in the medical field and for fiber optic communications,” he said.
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