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The University of Southampton

Research project: Nandhakumar: Fabrication of nano-scale materials

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Structuring matter on a nanometer scale is now a clear route to create so called metamaterials with entirely novel and enhanced functional capabilities.

In particular nanostructured semiconducting materials possess novel electronic and optical properties in comparison to their non-mesoporous counterparts. Such materials are of considerable fundamental and technological interest to applications in sensors, optical devices and solar cells because they are entirely composed of surface atoms. By virtue of their reduced dimensionality and nanometric length scales these materials are also expected to give rise to quantum size effects and are therefore interesting systems to study the physics of low dimensionality structrures. In my group we have produced a wide range of semiconductors such as CdTe, PbTe and ZnO with continuous and well-ordered nanostructrures in three dimensions. These materials were produced by direct liquid crystal templating and utilises the 3D supramolecular assemblies formed by mixtures of high concentrations of non-ionic polyoxytethylene surfactants and water as nanoscale moulds around which a solid film of the material is formed by electrochemical deposition. A number of different topologies can be prepared by this method ranging from lattices with hexagonally arranged pores to more complex interconnected networks of pores on the scale of 2-20 nm. The resulting mesoporous semiconductor films exhibited strong optical birefringence and showed evidence for quantum confinement.

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Left image: Schematic representation of how a mesoporous film forms around the surfactant columns to form a hexagonal lattice. Right image: Interconnected network of pores as found in the so called liquid crystal cubic phase.

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