Towards a silicon light source

A team of physicists led by Kateřina (Dohnalová) Newell from the University of Amsterdam, have devised a new way to improve the optical properties of silicon nanocrystals, which under normal cicrumstances are quite poor. Their result was published in the journal Chemistry of Materials, with Dohnalová’s artwork being selected for the cover of the journal.

The cover of the Chemistry of Materials August 11 issue.

Silicon is the central building block of most electronic applications. While the electronic properties of this material are enormously useful, its optical, light-emitting properties are very poor. This is unfortunate, since the integration of electronic and optical elements (such as tiny lasers) on computer chips could make these chips even more versatile and useful.


Using theoretical simulations by so-called Density Functional Theory, the authors have shown that the optical properties of silicon nanocrystals can be greatly improved when the silicon is combined with certain types of ligands – molecules that can add specific properties and can bind easily to the silicon nanocrystals. By carefully selecting the correct ligands, one can create silicon-based nanocrystals which are much better at emitting light, and which may help realize the much desired silicon light source.

Cover art

Kateřina (Dohnalová) Newell created an artistic version of the simulated silicon nanocrystals using Blender 3D freeware, showing the different ways in which silicon can be combined with ligands to form new structures. The image was selected as a cover image for the Chemistry of Materials August 11 issue.


Electronic Structure Engineering Achieved via Organic Ligands in Silicon Nanocrystals, Kateřina Dohnalová, Prokop Hapala, Kateřina Kůsová, and Ivan Infante. Chem. Mater. 2020, 32, 15, 6326-6337.

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