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Chinese expert invents device to measure electron activity

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-08-01 08:05

A Chinese scientist working in the United States has invented a new device to measure the behavior of electrons in materials, which will help improve the performance and energy efficiency of electronic devices, microchips and sensors used in the IT and tech sectors.

His findings have been independently verified by leading players in industry and academia, including General Motors and Columbia University, and the detection device will potentially be adopted by IBM, Tang Shuang told reporters in New York on July 14.

The results were reported in Tang's article Extracting the Energy Sensitivity of Charge Carrier Transport and Scattering, which was published in Scientific Reports, an online journal published by Nature, on July 13.

The project has been under research for four years, and was partially finished at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and SUNY Poly, a campus developed between the New York State government and industrial companies, including IBM and GlobalFoundries, Tang said.

It is well known that in electronic devices, microchips and sensors, electrons carry and transport information. In thermoelectric generators and thermoelectric refrigerators, electrons carry and transport energy and entropy.

Electrons, however, can be scattered and resisted by defects, impurities, lattice vibrations and grain boundaries during transport. Some forms of scattering and resistance can jeopardize the performance of computer chips, electronics and IT devices, while others may benefit energy and refrigeration efficiency.

Therefore, detecting the scattering and transport mechanisms of electrons in materials is a vital step toward improving the efficiency of these devices.

No other similar detection devices had ever been developed until Tang's breakthrough.

Tang said he discovered that the maximum value of the Seebeck coefficient would change within certain scattering mechanisms, and he used this discovery to develop his detection tool.

He tested the instrument at low, room and high temperatures, and found it performed better than traditional methods at every level. He also tested the device on a range of new materials - including graphene, black phosphorene and the transition metal dichalcogenide - and found it useful in improving the function of these materials.

"Understanding the electronic scattering and transport mechanisms is the basis for improving device performance across various applications. Tang's findings have provided the electronics industry with a key tool to enhance its future development," Qing Hao from the University of Arizona says.

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