Scientists find creative way to produce infrared light using quantum dots

UChicago researcher Xingyu Shen has a device that uses quantum dots to produce infrared light, a scientific advance that could lead to new lasers or sensors. Photo credit: Jean Lachat

The new innovations mean cheaper sensors and lasers are on the horizon.

Scientists at the University of Chicago have found an exciting new way to produce infrared light using so-called “quantum dots.”

These quantum dots are tiny crystals so small that you could fit a billion of them into a single period at the end of a sentence!

The researchers say this method is just as good as the old methods, even though it is still fairly new.

So what’s the big problem with infrared light? Well, it is the type of light that we cannot see, but it is very useful for many things, such as sensors.

For example, you can use it to test whether a car is emitting harmful gases, check the alcohol content in your breath, or ensure that no harmful gases such as methane are escaping from machines.

Until now, producing devices for infrared light has been complicated and expensive.

But these quantum dots could change all that. Philippe Guyot-Sionnest, a professor at the University of Chicago, said: “We have reason to believe that we could significantly improve the performance of these quantum dots.”

The cool thing about quantum dots is that they can glow in different colors depending on their size. They are very efficient, meaning they do their job very well and are quite easy to make.

Some TVs even use quantum dots to enhance their images, although these are intended for colors we can see. But quantum dots haven’t been used much for infrared light, which we can’t see.

Normally, infrared devices are manufactured using a complex and expensive process. Scientists thought there might be an easier way to do this. So they decided to use these tiny quantum dots to try out a so-called “cascade” technique.

In simple terms, imagine a series of waterfalls. When you pass electricity through a device in this “cascade,” it is like sending a ton of electrons through these waterfalls.

Each time an electron falls, it can release some of its energy as light. The scientists made a black “ink” filled with these tiny dots, placed them on a surface and ran electricity through them. It worked really well, right from the start!

Why is this so great? Because it can make things like breathalyzers or emissions tests cheaper and easier.

Guyot-Sionnest said this is one of the best applications for quantum dots. Unlike other materials, this technique works specifically because of the special rules that quantum dots follow, known as quantum mechanics.

Researchers are optimistic that with a little more optimization, this new method could be even better than the old methods of producing infrared light. This means cheaper, smaller and more efficient devices for all sorts of useful things.

So next time you hear about quantum dots, remember that these tiny crystals aren’t just small; They could make a big contribution to making our lives easier and safer.

The study was published in Nature photonics.

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Source: University of Chicago.

Laura Coffey

Laura Coffey is a Worldtimetodays U.S. News Reporter based in Canada. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Laura Coffey joined Worldtimetodays in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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