Nanocrystal Lighting

Finally, they figured out how to make continuously light emitting crystals. This will have a huge impact on a lot of things.

For more than a decade, scientists have been frustrated in their attempts to create continuously emitting light sources from individual molecules because of an optical quirk called “blinking,” but now scientists at the University of Rochester have uncovered the basic physics behind the phenomenon, and along with researchers at the Eastman Kodak Company, created a nanocrystal that constantly emits light.

The findings, detailed online in today’s issue of Nature, may open the door to dramatically less expensive and more versatile lasers, brighter LED lighting, and biological markers that track how a drug interact with a cell at a level never before possible.

Many molecules, as well as crystals just a billionth of a meter in size, can absorb or radiate photons. But they also experience random periods when they absorb a photon, but instead of the photon radiating away, its energy is transformed into heat. These “dark” periods alternate with periods when the molecule can radiate normally, leading to the appearance of them turning on and off, or blinking.

“A nanocrystal that has just absorbed the energy from a photon has two choices to rid itself of the excess energy—emission of light or of heat,” says Todd Krauss, professor of chemistry at the University of Rochester and lead author on the study. “If the nanocrystal emits that energy as heat, you’ve essentially lost that energy.”

Krauss worked with engineers at Kodak and researchers at the Naval Research Laboratory and Cornell University to discover the new, non-blinking nanocrystals.

No more battery or electric powered lights. You could have video screens that don’t require power that are back lit. There are all kinds of amazing uses.

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  1. They’ll still need power Hud. This has just made them more efficient. Errant recomination processes (like ones causing the heat mentioned in the article) are the bane of solid-state electronics. It is a common goal to understand how the mechanism works so we can design structures – graded interfaces in the case of the CdZnSe-ZnSe nanocrystals – to supress these types of recombination. It is a challenge in all sorts of semiconductor-based devices, from detectors, lasers, LEDs and many others.

  2. I got the impression they could absorb photons and reemit them. Well. anyway, it sounds like they would use a lot less energy than even LEDs which use very little compared to other light emitters.

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