New Materials and Nanostructures

Advanced Nanostructures

Researchers at the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Nano Science and Technology are using nanotechnology to design materials that increase the efficiency of semiconductors and other electronic equipment.

The goal of this multidisciplinary research is the creation of advanced nanostructures with a wide range of application. Some Notre Dame scientists are developing better methods for producing graphene, a carbon substance that can replace silicon in ultrafast transistors. Others are studying how the spin of electrons in nanomaterial molecules can be used to enhance the performance of semiconductors. Still others are looking at ways to build advanced nanostructures for solar cell applications, such as encapsulating tiny nanowires within layered composite materials to enhance their electrical properties.

The Center for Nano Science and Technology is well-equipped for this type of cutting-edge research. Its capabilities include molecular beam epitaxy, a highly sophisticated method of growing and depositing pure crystals for semiconductors and other components. These nanomaterials and photonic crystals are fabricated in a state-of-the-art clean room, where electron beam lithography can fabricate devices as small as a few nanometers in diameter. Characterization tools such as optical equipment and extensive instrumentation for structural and electrical measurements precisely determine the properties of the nanostructures being fabricated.

The center also has one of the best experimental setups in the world for studying near-field spectroscopy, a technique that can identify nanosized features based on their often-subtle chemical differences. 

"We have also achieved a breakthrough in specimen preparation for transmission electron microscopy, cutting the preparation time from days to hours," explains Margaret Dobrowolska, professor of physics.

The wide-ranging outcomes of this combined research will improve the performance of computers and electronic devices and enhance our quality of life through energy efficiency.