For a very long period of time, two-dimensional nanomaterials with just one or few atoms have been the rage in material sciences. For example, graphene, which is a single-layer sheet of carbon atoms that yields a material hundred times stronger than steel, super-flexible and highly conductive.
Meanwhile, a research initiative undertaken at the University of California is taking two-dimensional nanomaterials to the next dimension. The focus of the research is to integrate different nanoscale material together in three-diension. The objective is to create a completely new generation of devices for monitoring the environment, biomedical applications, and energy harvesting.
“This open so many more possibilities for what could be done with nanoengineering tools,” stated the researcher behind the study.
Elaborately, the research involves integrating graphene with nanoparticles that are semiconducting ones, called quantum dots. The use of quantum dots lies in creating devices to visualize a large spectrum of light of different wavelengths, including ultraviolet and infrared that are invisible to the human eye. Termed ‘multi-spectrum photodetectors’, these devices could enable cameras to capture images of infection, harmful radiation and poisonous gases, monitor air and water quality, and check food quality or contamination. In addition, these devices could also help at night and in foggy conditions to locate objects.
In fact, with the approach used by the researcher, the devices created would be ultra-thin. This is because, in principle, working with nanomaterials allows to engineer very thin photodetectors of the order of one micrometer. Moreover, these devices could easily be combined into hand-held electronic devices and smartphones for convenient use outside laboratory environments.