Scientists Seamlessly Sewed Crystals at Atomic Level

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Scientists created a thin fabric by successfully sewing together two patches of crystal at their atomic levels, according to a new study published on March 8, 2018.

Scientists from the University of Chicago and Cornell collaborated to develop an atomically-thin fabric of crystals, with the help of technique that seamlessly sewed together two crystal patches at atomic levels.

The team intended to stitch different three-atom-thick crystals. Jiwoong Park, professor of chemistry and lead author on the study, said “Usually these are grown in stages under very different conditions; grow one material first, stop the growth, change the condition, and start it again to grow another material.”

To simplify the process, they developed a new method to find the perfect opening that would work for both materials in a constant environment, which would enable them to grow the entire crystal in a single session. The result was the first of ever perfectly aligned crystals ever grown. The two materials attached perfectly at the atomic level and when the team examined it using scanning electron microscopes, they observed that the larger of the two materials formed a gathering around the joint.

The performance of the material was tested using an electronic device, a diode. The joining of the different kinds of materials, is supposed to allow flow of electrons only one way through the fabric and not the other way.

The diode lit up. “It was exciting to see these three-atom-thick LEDs glowing. We saw excellent performance-the best known for these types of materials,” said Saien Xie, first author of the paper.

This discovery has great potential for new developments in the field of electronics. The new technique could result in flexible LEDs or atoms-thick 2D circuits, with the capacity to function horizontally and laterally.

The team also noted that the stretching and compressing in the process, changed the optical properties of the fabric, including color of crystals due to the quantum mechanical effects. This could result in the development of light sensors and LEDs with the potential to change color as the fabric is stretched.

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