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11/28/2014

RevolutionarysolarfriendlyformofsiliconshinesScienceDaily

Revolutionarysolarfriendlyformofsiliconshines
Date:

November17,2014

Source: CarnegieInstitution
Siliconisthesecondmost
abundantelementinEarth's
crust.Whenpurified,ittakes
onadiamondstructure,which
isessentialtomodern
electronicdevicescarbonis
tobiologyassiliconisto
technology.Ateamof
Carnegiescientistsledby
TimothyStrobelhas
synthesizedanentirelynew
formofsilicon,onethat
promisesevengreaterfuture
applications.
Theirworkispublishedin
NatureMaterials.
Althoughsiliconisincredibly
commonintoday's
technology,itssocalled
indirectbandgap
ViewthroughthechannelsofSi24.Thisnewzeolitetypeallotropeofsilicon
semiconductingproperties
(isotypicwiththezeoliteCAS)hasanopenframeworkcomprisedof5,6and8
preventitfrombeing
memberedsp3bondedsiliconrings.
consideredfornext
Credit:TimothyStrobel
generation,highefficiency
applicationssuchaslight
emittingdiodes,higher
performancetransistorsandcertainphotovoltaicdevices.
Metallicsubstancesconductelectricalcurrenteasily,whereasinsulating(nonmetallic)materialsconductnocurrentat
all.Semiconductingmaterialsexhibitmidrangeelectricalconductivity.Whensemiconductingmaterialsaresubjected
toaninputofaspecificenergy,boundelectronscanmovetohigherenergy,conductingstates.Thespecificenergy
requiredtomakethisjumptotheconductingstateisdefinedasthe"bandgap."Whiledirectbandgapmaterialscan
effectivelyabsorbandemitlight,indirectbandgapmaterials,likediamondstructuredsilicon,cannot.
Inorderforsilicontobemoreattractiveforuseinnewtechnology,itsindirectbandgapneededtobealtered.Strobel
andhisteamCarnegie'sDuckYoungKim,StevceStefanoskiandOleksandrKurakevych(nowatSorbonne)were
abletosynthesizeanewformofsiliconwithaquasidirectbandgapthatfallswithinthedesiredrangeforsolar
absorption,somethingthathasneverbeforebeenachieved.
Thesilicontheycreatedisasocalledallotrope,whichmeansadifferentphysicalformofthesameelement,inthe
samewaythatdiamondsandgraphitearebothformsofcarbon.Unliketheconventionaldiamondstructure,thisnew
siliconallotropeconsistsofaninterestingopenframework,calledazeolitetypestructure,whichiscomposedof
channelswithfive,sixandeightmemberedsiliconrings.
Theycreateditusinganovelhighpressureprecursorprocess.First,acompoundofsiliconandsodium,Na4Si24,was
formedunderhighpressureconditions.Next,thiscompoundwasrecoveredtoambientpressure,andthesodiumwas
completelyremovedbyheatingundervacuum.Theresultingpuresiliconallotrope,Si24,hastheidealbandgapfor
solarenergyconversiontechnology,andcanabsorb,andpotentiallyemit,lightfarmoreeffectivelythanconventional
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11/28/2014

RevolutionarysolarfriendlyformofsiliconshinesScienceDaily

diamondstructuredsilicon.Si24isstableatambientpressuretoatleast842degreesFahrenheit(450degrees
Celsius).
"Highpressureprecursorsynthesisrepresentsanentirelynewfrontierinnovelenergymaterials,"remarkedStrobel.
"Usingtheuniquetoolofhighpressure,wecanaccessnovelstructureswithrealpotentialtosolvestandingmaterials
challenges.Herewedemonstratepreviouslyunknownpropertiesforsilicon,butourmethodologyisreadilyextendibleto
entirelydifferentclassesofmaterials.Thesenewstructuresremainstableatatmosphericpressure,solargervolume
scalingstrategiesmaybeentirelypossible."
"Thisisanexcellentexampleofexperimentalandtheoreticalcollaboration,"saidKim."Advancedelectronicstructure
theoryandexperimenthaveconvergedtodeliverarealmaterialwithexcitingprospects.Webelievethathighpressure
researchcanbeusedtoaddresscurrentenergychallenges,andwearenowextendingthisworktodifferentmaterials
withequallyexcitingproperties."
StorySource:
TheabovestoryisbasedonmaterialsprovidedbyCarnegieInstitution.Note:Materialsmaybeeditedforcontentand
length.
JournalReference:
1. DuckYoungKim,StevceStefanoski,OleksandrO.Kurakevych,TimothyA.Strobel.Synthesisofanopen
frameworkallotropeofsilicon.NatureMaterials,2014DOI:10.1038/nmat4140
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CarnegieInstitution."Revolutionarysolarfriendlyformofsiliconshines."ScienceDaily.ScienceDaily,17November
2014.<www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141117130613.htm>.

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