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Tiny Semi-Transparent LEDs Could Be Used To Make Transparent Flexible Devices

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Led by Nobel Laureate Sir Kostya Novoselov, researchers show that 2D materials may be manufactured to produce more efficient, flexible and semi-transparent electronic devices by way of building light-emitting diodes on an atomic level.

According to their work, researchers proved that graphene and other 2D materials can be used for producing devices that emit light, which can be used on televisions, tablets and other mobile devices, making them highly flexible and incredibly thin but extremely durable despite being semi-transparent. To come up with a LED device, 2D crystals were combined. At just 10 to 40 atoms thick, the LED devices were so thin they hold the potential to be the foundation for semi-transparent electronics.

One-atom thick layers of graphene were first isolated in 2004. The material had a lot of potential uses but one of the most notable was in electronics. Other 2D materials like molybdenum disulphide and boron nitiride have been discovered, increasing application and research possibilities.

Graphene was stacked in layers, building a heterostructure with customized functionality. Quantum wells were introduced to control electron movement, paving the way for graphene to be used in optoelectronics.

The heterostructures contained just a few atomic layers of 2D material and this has allowed them to be transparent and flexible. Freddie Withers, who headed the production effort, said the research team envisions a new breed of optoelectronic devices stemming from their work, ranging in application from basic transparent lighting to more complicated objects.

"By preparing the heterostructures on elastic and transparent substrates, we show that they can provide the basis for flexible and semi-transparent electronics," explained Novoselov.

He also said that the number of functionalities that the heterostructures are exhibiting now are expected to increase even more as the number of 2D crystals grows, improving electronic quality.

Alexander Tartakovskii, a professor at The University of Sheffield and a co-author for the study, added that the LED structures they created showed no dramatic changes in performance during the course of many weeks as researchers took measurements. Even in the early days of the manufacturing process, the quantum efficiency of graphene-based LEDs was already very close to what organic LEDs have.

With graphene being just as thick as an atom, putting together several layers of the material will result in a very thin product, which can then be used in electronics, slimming down various devices dramatically.

The study was published in the journal Nature Materials. Researchers from the University of Manchester and the National Institute for Materials Science in Japan also participated.

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