Want Better Smartphone Cameras? Wish For 'Nano-Earthquakes'


Sometimes, the wrath of Mother Nature can be a good thing, even for digital electronics, though one would think just the opposite.

However, new research from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University in Australia claims "nano-earthquakes" may boost mobile phone cameras and solar cell performance due to how sound waves can alter electronic properties in 2D materials.

The study, by Dr. Sumeet Walia and Dr. Amgad Rezk, which will be published Thursday in the journal Advanced Optical Materials, could present new advancements for improved solar cell efficiency as well as imaging sensors in mobile phone cameras and fluorescence imaging.

"Sound waves can be likened to ripples created on the surface of water, but where we can control the direction and intensity of these ripples," explains Walia in an announcement on the study results.

The team used the ripples, which occur on a crystal surface, and meshed it into a thick 2D material layer.

"As the surface acoustic waves are turned on and off or increased and decreased in intensity, the change in electronic properties of the 2D materials follows the same pattern," explains Walia.

Apparently, nano-earthquake waves under the surface of a 2D material grab electronics and effectively tune the light emitted by the material. Yet, the alteration doesn't impact material structure or composition.

"As soon as the acoustic waves were removed, the material retracted back to its initial optical state, and therefore this mechanism is highly adaptable for a variety of dynamically operating systems," notes Walia.

Researchers are able to control direction and intensity of the ripples due to the close relationship between nano-quakes and the electronic capabilities of the molybdenum disulfide layer.

The research effort was funded by  the Australian Research Council and undertaken at RMIT's MicroNano Research Facility.

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