Zinc-Oxide NanoWires could mean better DVDs

A breakthrough in semiconductor laser technology could potentially lead to a new way to kill viruses and increase the storage capacity of DVDs.

Researchers from the University of California at Riverside in collaboration with a team from the University of Central Florida have figured out a way to increase the use of ultraviolet semiconductor diode lasers. These tiny lasers, less than the width of a hair strand, are already widelyused in data processing, information storage and biology.

Their applications have been limited, however, by size, cost and power. The current generation of ultraviolet lasers is based on a material called gallium nitride. UC Riverside’s Jianlin Liu, a professor of electrical engineering, and his colleagues have made a breakthrough in zinc oxide nanowire waveguide lasers, which can offer smaller sizes, lower costs, higher powers and shorter wavelengths.

Leonid Chernyak, a UCF professor of physics and Yuqing Lin, a graduate student at UCF, are collaborators on the research, which ispublished in this month’s issue of Nature Nanotechnology.

Until now, zinc oxide nanowires couldn’t be used in real-world light emission applications because of the lack of p-type, or positive type, material needed by all semiconductors. Liu solved that problem by doping the zinc oxide nanowires with antimony, a metalloid element, to create the p-type material.

The UCF researchers conducted experiments to verify that the zinc oxide nanowires in the study had the necessary properties for conductivity. Chernyak and Lin used UCF’s unique Scanning Electron Microscope probe station for the work. Chernyak designed and built the state-of-the-art station.

“We are so excited about this new development,” Chernyak said. “This research is most promising. While more research is needed, this may give us more options to explore, which could have some significant impacts on our daily lives from how we store our data to medical therapies that could help treat disease.”

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