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Electrochemical aspects of semiconductors no longer ‘flawed’

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Researchers from Curtin University have been able to reproduce and explain the often puzzling behaviour of electrons that enter or leave semiconductor materials commonly used in the electronics industry.

Published in Nature Communications, the research team developed a new theoretical model that opens up a debate in the fundamental understanding of how currents in semiconductor electrodes fully work.

Lead researcher Dr Simone Ciampi from Curtin University’s Department of Chemistry explained the team’s research outcomes could potentially lead to more reliable and more predictable silicon devices in the electronics industry. It also removes a significant barrier for academics working and studying in the field of molecular electronics.

“Silicon has been a very successful semiconductor material, and it is widely used in every day electronic devices, with some experts even dubbing this the ‘silicon era’,” Dr Ciampi said.

“You would be hard-pressed to find a modern electronic device that is not based on the electrical response of a silicon semiconductor component.

“Interestingly, a few significant aspects of how charges move across this interface still remain unexplained, and our research created new theoretical and experimental models that explain how the balance between static and dynamic charges works, why it cannot be neglected and how to account for it.”

Using cyclic voltammetry, the researchers performed a kinetic analysis of the electrode process. When they encountered a non-ideal or irregular shape, they attempted to recreate that same irregular shape, to see if it was a flaw, or indeed a normal and predictable part of the semiconductor’s electrostatic chemical reactivity.

“Commonly when a scientist or engineer would experience an irregular shape in the electrode process, they would dismiss it as a type of ‘flaw’. These ‘flaws’ were some of the remaining unexplained aspects in the silicon semiconductor components,” Dr Ciampi said.

“During our investigations, we were able to successfully reproduce the non-ideal shapes, thus concluding they were not flaws, but instead part of the routine electrostatic interactions.

“Using this data, we then created a new theoretical model that addresses the non-ideal shapes, explaining their presence.

“We hope that this new model will allow for the development of more reliable and more predictable silicon semiconductors in the electronics industry.”

The Curtin University-led research team also included collaboration from the University of Murcia (Spain), the University of Wollongong, Australian National University and the University of New South Wales.

The full research paper Reproducible flaws unveil electrostatic aspects of semiconductor electrochemistry can be found online here


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