The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded a prestigious grant to Daniël Vanmaekelbergh (Debye Institute for Nanomaterials Science). Vanmaekelberg will receive an ERC Advanced Grant with a value of 2.5 million Euros. With the ERC Grants, the European Union stimulates pioneering research initiated by outstanding researchers themselves. The ERC Advanced Grant is a personal subsidy for a five-year period, awarded to exceptional researchers who are leaders in their field of research and who have demonstrated significant achievements in the last 10 years.
Semiconductors with a honeycomb geometry
The electronic properties of a material are determined by the chemical elements that are present, the atomic structure and dimensions of the crystal. Of great importance for optical and electronic applications are semiconductor crystals that are macroscopically large in two horizontal directions (millimeters to centimeters), but very thin (a few millionths of a centimeter) in the vertical direction. These crystals are widely used for computer transistors, and as light-emitting devices and lasers.
If, in addition, a regular array of nano-holes is present in such an extremely thin plate, a honeycomb structure can be formed. The honeycomb geometry is the same as that of graphene, a chicken wire made of a single layer of carbon atoms. Semiconductors with such a ‘chicken-wire geometry’ maintain all the good properties of the semiconductor (i.e. light emission, electronic switching), but the electrons will behave in a very particular way: they lose their mass, which means they are virtually unimpeded, and therefore very fast, when traveling through the honeycomb lattice, just like elementary light particles.