The quantum dot has many super powers. It can capture light energy for solar panels, team up with LEDs to emit entangled photons, and according to new research, activate neurons in a Petri dish. Quantum dots are tiny bits of semiconductor material, and their unique properties coming from being so small—no more than 10 nanometers across—that they’re governed by weird rules of the quantum world. Quantum dots are already used in biology to label individual cells or proteins. But now, quantum dots are no longer just labels; they can change how neurons behave.
When experts talk about discarding today’s silicon-based computer chips and building next-generation electronics out of new materials, they’re usually talking about graphene, and for good reason–the one-atom-thick layers of carbon can behave like semiconductors and have already been used in experimental transistors. But researchers from a Swiss lab think they have a material that can trump both silicon and graphene. World, meet molybdenite.
The researchers from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) note that the mineral looks similar to mica, and has a layered molecular structure that allows it to sheer off easily into thin sheets.
Molybdenite, the researchers said, is abundant in nature and is currently used in steel alloys and in lubricants, but it has not previously been studied for use in electronics. “It’s a two-dimensional material, very thin and easy to use in nanotechnology. It has real potential in the fabrication of very small transistors, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and solar cells,” said EPFL Professor Andras Kis, adding that molybdenite (MoS2) is far more compact than silicon, while still allowing electrons to circulate freely. [PC Pro]