Zinc oxide imparts green sheen to new photoconductors

March 19th, 2009 - 5:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 19 (IANS) Researchers have designed a photoconducting material that uses zinc oxide, a green inorganic compound found in baby powder and suntan lotion. Earlier photoconducting devices were based on lead sulphide.
Photodetectors - devices found in cell phones, digital cameras and other consumer gadgets - utilise photoconducting materials.

The new material converts light into electricity but, unlike existing materials, also features eco-friendly chemistry, low-cost production, mechanical flexibility and wavelength tunability (ability to design the material to absorb the most important part of the solar spectrum).

Conventional photoconducting materials are expensive to manufacture, making them unsuitable for widespread solar energy use, and they are rigid, making them unsuitable for flexible electronics.

“One property of our hybrid material that is especially important for solar-energy devices is that less light is needed to get a good strong and clear signal,” said lead researcher Samuel I. Stupp, professor of materials science and engineering, chemistry and medicine at Northwestern University.

“This comes from the material’s highly ordered architecture, which helps transport the electrons efficiently,” said Stupp, according to a Northwestern release.

The material has a ‘detectivity’ level comparable to amorphous silicon, which is widely used in large-area electronics applications, such as liquid-crystal displays (LCDs).

These findings were published in Nature Materials.

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