Tiny light-emitting diodes, commonly known as LEDs, are used in pretty much every modern electronic device. As technology moves forward and with the release of faster and smaller devices, there is an increasing demand for LEDs that are even smaller, with increased strength and energy efficiency.
Scientists from the University of Washington have been able to develop the world’s thinnest LED that can provide light energy in electronic devices. It is based around 2D, flexible semiconductors, which means it can be stacked or used in a wider variety of smaller devices. Made from flat sheets of the molecular semiconductor known as tungsten diselenide, the process is very similar to how graphene is produced, with sheets being extracted by regular adhesive tape.
University of Washington assistant professor in materials science,engineering and physics, Xiaodong Xu, explains what they have achieved saying: “We are able to make the thinnest-possible LEDs, only three atoms thick yet mechanically strong. Such thin and fold-able LEDs are critical for future portable and integrated electronic devices.”
Jason Ross, a University of Washington materials science and engineering graduate student, who worked with Xu said: “These are 10,000 times smaller than the thickness of a human hair, yet the light they emit can be seen by standard measurement equipment.
“This is a huge leap of miniaturization of technology, and because it’s a semiconductor, you can do almost everything with it that is possible with existing, three-dimensional silicon technologies.”
The researchers are now looking at different applications of this new technology, which could open up the way for employing the use of light to interconnect with nano-scale computer chips, rather than electricity.
“A promising solution is to replace the electrical interconnect with optical ones, which will maintain the high bandwidth but consume less energy,” Xu said. “Our work makes it possible to make highly integrated and energy-efficient devices in areas such as lighting, optical communication and nano lasers.”
The next step for the team is to find more efficient ways of producing the tiny LEDs and exploring what results from stacking the two-dimensional materials.
[Image via University of Washinton]