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MME’s Huang uses nanocomposites to improve photodetectors

Research by Jinsong Huang, assistant professor with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Department of Mechanical & Materials Engineering, is featured in the Nov. 11 edition of Nature Nanotechnology. Huang’s paper, “A nanocomposite ultraviolet photodetector based on interfacial trap-controlled charge injection” details a way to detect light at a much longer distance than is currently possible.

Ultraviolet photodetectors (UV PDs) are widely in use for a variety of purposes—ranging from killing bacteria in medical settings, to sensing radiation in military or industrial security areas. In communications devices, semiconductor solid UV PDs are generally made of single crystalline materials with high cost, relatively low efficiency and other challenges.

Huang’s research, sponsored the U.S. Office of Naval Research and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, explores new nanocomposite hybrid photodetector (HPD) devices with sensitivity much higher than current UV detectors.

According to the published research, Huang’s solution-processed ultraviolet photodetector is structured with a nanocomposite active layer composed of zinc oxide (ZnO) nanoparticles blended with semiconducting polymers to outperform inorganic photodetector materials common today.

Huang said the low cost thin-film photodetectors developed by his team are “hundreds to thousands of times more sensitive than existing HPDs, with great potential for existing applications of very weak UV light detection—such as water treatment, food inspection and more.” Huang added, “These HPDs can potentially open new application opportunities because of their flexibility, light weight, and printability.”

The HPD prototype Huang developed at UNL could be commercialized in three to five years.

 

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