Researchers set new record for brightness of quantum dots

Sep 25, 2007

By placing quantum dots on a specially designed photonic crystal, researchers at the University of Illinois have demonstrated enhanced fluorescence intensity by a factor of up to 108. Potential applications include high-brightness light-emitting diodes, optical switches and personalized, high-sensitivity biosensors.

“We are using photonic crystals in a new way,” said Brian Cunningham, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and corresponding author of a paper published in the August issue of the journal Nature Nanotechnology. “We tune them to the specific wavelength of a laser used to stimulate the quantum dots, which couples the energy more efficiently and increases the brightness.”

A quantum dot is a tiny piece of semiconductor material 2 to 10 nanometers in diameter (a nanometer is 1 billionth of a meter). When illuminated with invisible ultraviolet light, a quantum dot will fluoresce with visible light.

To enhance the fluorescence, Cunningham and colleagues at the U. of I. begin by creating plastic sheets of photonic crystal using a technique called replica molding. Then they fasten commercially available quantum dots to the surface of the plastic.

“We designed the photonic crystal to efficiently capture the light from an ultraviolet laser and to concentrate its intensity right within the surface where the quantum dots are located,” said Cunningham, who also is affiliated with the university’s Beckman Institute, the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory, and the Institute for Genomic Biology. “Enhanced absorption by the quantum dots is the first improvement we made.”

Enhanced, directed emission from the quantum dots is the second improvement.

Quantum dots normally give off light in all directions. However, because the researchers’ quantum dots are sitting on a photonic crystal, the energy can be channeled in a preferred direction – toward a detector, for example.

While the researchers report an enhancement of fluorescence intensity by a factor of up to 108 compared with quantum dots on an unpatterned surface, more recent (unpublished) work has exceeded a factor of 550.

“The enhanced brightness makes it feasible to use photonic crystals and quantum dots in biosensing applications from detecting DNA and other biomolecules, to detecting cancer cells, spores and viruses,” Cunningham said. “More exotic applications, such as personalized medicine based on an individual’s genetic profile, may also be possible.”

Source: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Explore further: Better memory with faster lasers

Related Stories

Producing spin-entangled electrons

Jul 01, 2015

A team from the RIKEN Center for Emergent Matter Science, along with collaborators from several Japanese institutions, have successfully produced pairs of spin-entangled electrons and demonstrated, for the ...

Defects in atomically thin semiconductor emit single photons

May 04, 2015

Researchers at the University of Rochester have shown that defects on an atomically thin semiconductor can produce light-emitting quantum dots. The quantum dots serve as a source of single photons and could be useful for ...

Recommended for you

Better memory with faster lasers

Jul 02, 2015

DVDs and Blu-ray disks contain so-called phase-change materials that morph from one atomic state to another after being struck with pulses of laser light, with data "recorded" in those two atomic states. ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.