Nanotechnology Allowing Image Capture with Atomically Thin Materials

Image capture has become extremely important in the current day and time as it allows visual transferences of information. Technology has progressed enough to allow an endless number of selfies and photos to flood social networks. In addition, images have helped increased society’s knowledge as a whole by allowing people to visualize what is happening in other areas of the world without actually being there. However, many people tend to forget that image capture is also incredibly useful in the medical field, as bio-imaging devices help greatly in diagnosing and examining patients.

With the many benefits that Nanotechnology image capture provides, researchers have been hard at work to design more efficient ways of capturing image information. At Rice University, researches have recently designed and developed an atomically thin material that has great potential to become the world’s thinnest imaging platform. Synthetic, two-dimensional materials made from metal chalcogenide compounds could lead to a new generation of superthin devices, as Rice researchers have shown. One of these nanomaterials, molybdenum sulfide, is now being studied because its capabilities to detect light. In case this material does not cut it, copper indium selenide (CIS) has great potential for image capture as well.

Sidong Lei, a graduate student in the Rice lab working with scientist Pulickel Ajayan, has worked to synthesize CIS. CIS is a single-layer matrix composed of copper, indium, and selenium atoms. Lei was able to prove the materials capability of image capture by building a prototype – a three-pixel charge-coupled device (CCD).

CIS material can be great for image capture because its pixels are highly light sensitive. This is because the electrons trapped within the material take an extraordinarily long time to leave. Therefore, new devices would be able to use this to their advantage by trapping the electrons that are formed during light exposure and holding them for an extended period of time. This will allow images to be stored. The characteristics of CIS has allowed it to be at least 10 times more efficient than other materials that have already been investigated.

Lei has said that the material could greatly help in the development of two-dimensional electronics that work to capture different images. This will be very different from traditional CCDs which are known to be thick and rigid. A CCD made out of CIS will be ultrathin. Its lack of thickness will also mean that it will be extremely flexible as well as transparent. These characteristics are what make CIS material an optimal choice for future image capture.

The transparency of the material allows for the development of better scanners. One side of the scanner could allow the light in to shine the image on the other side for capture. People working in the medical will be pleased as this means that CIS can be combined with additional two-dimensional devices to allow tiny bio-imaging devices. These devices will work better than the ones we have currently, as they will allow professionals to monitor patient conditions in real-time.

The flexibility of the material also means that CIS can be curved to match focal surfaces of imaging lens. This will greatly simplify the current optical system that we have, and pave the way for higher efficiency.