Chemists use abundant, low-cost and non-toxic elements to create semiconductors

Toward Earth-Abundant, Biocompatible Semiconductors.

Javier Vela and the chemists in his research group have been working to produce semiconductors from materials that are safe, abundant and inexpensive to manufacture. Larger photo. Photo by Christopher Gannon and courtesy of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Javier Vela and the chemists in his research group have been working to produce semiconductors from materials that are safe, abundant and inexpensive to manufacture. Larger photo. Photo by Christopher Gannon and courtesy of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Semiconductors are everywhere. They’re on our computers and our cell phones. They’re usually in high-end, high-value products. While semiconductors may not contain rare materials, many are toxic or very expensive.

Javier Vela and the chemists in his Iowa State University research group found a conference presentation by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers that suggested possible substitutes for perovskites in semiconductors.

The team thus decided to focus on sodium-based alternatives and started an 18-month search for a new kind of semiconductor. They came up with a compound that features sodium, which is cheap and abundant; bismuth, which is relatively scarce but is overproduced during the mining of other metals and is cheap; and sulfur, the fifth most common element on Earth. The researchers report their discovery in a paper recently published online by the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Scientists noted, the synthesis unlocks a new class of low-cost and environmentally friendly ternary (three-part) semiconductors that show properties of interest for applications in energy conversion.

Vela said varieties in amalgamation – changing response temperature and time, a division of metal particle forerunners, including certain ligands – enables the scientific experts to control the material’s structure and the extent of its nanocrystals. What’s more, that enables specialists to change and calibrate the material’s properties.

A few of the material’s properties are as of now perfect for sun oriented cells: The material’s band hole – the measure of vitality required for a light molecule to thump an electron free – is perfect for sun oriented cells. The material, dissimilar to different materials utilized as a part of sun-powered cells, is additionally steady when presented to air and water.

Along these lines, the scientists think they have a material that will function admirably in sun oriented cells, however without the poisonous quality, shortage or expenses.

Vela said, “We believe the experimental and computational results reported here. It will help advance the fundamental study and exploration of these and similar materials for energy conversion devices.”