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Semiconductors: The Building Blocks of Modern Technology

The global semiconductor industry is on the rise, with the potential to grow into a trillion-dollar industry by the end of the decade. In tandem, scientists continue to advance the field with quality research in semiconductor technology and applications. Here, we explore recent advances in semiconductor research across ACS Publications journals.

Tiny Powerhouses

Semiconductors are a class of crystalline solids whose electrical conductivity exists between that of a conductor, such as aluminum or copper, and an insulator, such as ceramic or glass—hence their “semi” conductive nature.1 These diverse substances, including two-dimensional (2D) materials, optoelectronics, and optical devices, have become the fundamental components of modern electronic technology.

Progress Toward Next-Generation Devices

In addition to silicon, novel materials such as graphene also have a high potential for applications as semiconductors in electronic devices. However, their high contact resistance makes them susceptible to overheating, and this limits their practical applications. Some scientists have begun investigating various options to lower the contact resistance, making 2D semiconductors a promising candidate for broader use in electronics.2

Some 2D semiconductor materials have recently been shown to exhibit magnetic properties, which could make them extremely useful for next-generation spintronic devices and information technology, such as logic circuits that utilize the spin interactions of electrons. By applying magnetic and other enhanced properties of certain semiconductors, spintronic devices could reduce energy consumption while increasing processing capabilities, making them a viable alternative to traditional electronics.3 To enhance these magnetic properties, one study explores doping suitable magnetic materials into host semiconductors at room temperature.3 Others are examining strategies to develop more high-temperature 2D magnetic semiconductors that could also one day be widely used in spintronics applications.4

The role of semiconductors in optoelectronic technology and applications has grown significantly in recent years. Semiconductor nanocrystals have displayed great potential in optoelectronics applications such as light-emitting diodes and lasers5, and organic–inorganic hybrid semiconductors such as organometal halide perovskites are also encouraging candidates for next-generation optoelectronics.6

A (Machine) Learning Process

Machine Learning (ML) is a growing field that has transformed research processes across various industries, including semiconductor production. For example, developing new semiconductors with high thermal conductivity may aid in heat management and energy conservation for device cooling—and ML algorithms can rapidly and accurately generate screenings to predict different semiconductor material properties, evaluate their potential applications, and create simulation models for extreme conditions.7

A recent study in ACS Applied Nano Materials describes a method for deep-learning-based microscopic imagery deblurring (MID), which helps to more accurately identify 2D semiconductors and may be useful in the industrial manufacturing process.8

Powering Renewable Energy Sources

Outside of the electronics industry, another important area of interest is the powerful role of semiconductors in sustainable energy generation. Researchers recently reported on a new type of semiconductor alloy “nanoflower” with great potential for use in water splitting and hydrogen production.9

Harnessing the power of the sun is no simple task, but semiconductors are also proving themselves essential for the future of solar energy conversion. The growing demand for effective yet inexpensive photovoltaic materials has prompted some to begin exploring alternative semiconductor options—such as copper sulfide (CuS), which could have great success in improving the stability and photoconversion efficiency in perovskite solar cells.10

Another study describes a strategy for improving perovskite solar cell performance by introducing 2D material films or semiconducting additives to better balance the charge transport, or the flow of electric current through the solar cell.11

Semiconductors are everywhere in our daily lives, and their impact continues to grow across a multitude of industries and applications. From driving the performance of next-generation electronics to improving technologies for a more sustainable future, these tiny powerhouses are vital for keeping the modern world running.

Further Reading: Recent Semiconductor Research from ACS Journals

  1. Huang, N. et al. Photosynthesis of Hydrogen and Its Synchronous Application in a Hydrogen Fuel Cell: A Comprehensive Experiment in the Undergraduate Teaching Laboratory. J. Chem. Educ. 2022, 99, 9, 3283–3288
  2. Protti, S. and Fagnoni, M. Recent Advances in Light-Induced Selenylation. ACS Org. Inorg. Au 2022, Article ASAP
  3. Park, H. et al. Reduction of the Error in the Electrical Characterization of Organic Field-Effect Transistors Based on Donor–Acceptor Polymer Semiconductors. ACS Appl. Electron. Mater. 2022, 4, 9, 4677–4682
  4. Abdelraouf, O.A.M. et al. Recent Advances in Tunable Metasurfaces: Materials, Design, and Applications. ACS Nano 2022, 16, 9, 13339–13369
  5. Bhall, N. et al. Endorsing a Hidden Plasmonic Mode for Enhancement of LSPR Sensing Performance in Evolved Metal–insulator Geometry Using an Unsupervised Machine Learning Algorithm. ACS Phys. Chem Au 2022, Article ASAP
  6. Shiraishi, Y. et al. Solar-Driven Generation of Hydrogen Peroxide on Phenol–Resorcinol–Formaldehyde Resin Photocatalysts. ACS Mater. Au 2022, 2, 6, 709–718

References

  1. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/science/semiconductor
  2. Wu, Z. et al. Lowering Contact Resistances of Two-Dimensional Semiconductors by Memristive Forming. Nano Lett. 2022, 22, 17, 7094–7103
  3. Kanwal, S. et al. Room-Temperature Ferromagnetism in Cu/Co Co-Doped ZnO Nanoparticles Prepared by the Co-Precipitation Method: For Spintronics Applications. ACS Omega 2022, 7, 36, 32184–32193
  4. Sun, H. et al. High-Temperature Ferromagnetism in a Two-Dimensional Semiconductor with a Rectangular Spin Lattice. J. Phys. Chem. C 2022, 126, 37, 16034–16041
  5. Brumberg, A. et al. Acceleration of Biexciton Radiative Recombination at Low Temperature in CdSe Nanoplatelets. Nano Lett. 2022, 22, 17, 6997–7004
  6. Li, Y. et al. Design of Organic–Inorganic Hybrid Heterostructured Semiconductors via High-Throughput Materials Screening for Optoelectronic Applications. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2022, 144, 36, 16656–16666
  7. Li, M. et al. Machine Learning for Harnessing Thermal Energy: From Materials Discovery to System Optimization. ACS Energy Lett. 2022, 7, 10, 3204–3226
  8. Dong, X. et al. Microscopic Image Deblurring by a Generative Adversarial Network for 2D Nanomaterials: Implications for Wafer-Scale Semiconductor Characterization. ACS Appl. Nano Mater. 2022, 5, 9, 12855–12864
  9. Aher, R. et al. Synthesis, Structural and Optical Properties of ZrBi2Se6 Nanoflowers: A Next-Generation Semiconductor Alloy Material for Optoelectronic Applications. ACS Omega 2022, 7, 36, 31877–31887
  10. Shaikh, G.Y. et al. Structural, Optical, Photoelectrochemical, and Electronic Properties of the Photocathode CuS and the Efficient CuS/CdS Heterojunction. ACS Omega 2022, 7, 34, 30233–30240
  11. Mei, Y. et al. Synergistic Effects of Bipolar Additives on Grain Boundary-Mediated Charge Transport for Efficient Carbon-Based Inorganic Perovskite Solar Cells. ACS Appl. Mater. Interfaces 2022, 14, 34, 38963–38971

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