(07/19/12) David Salisbury
Vanderbilt University researchers have found that the amount of damage that radiation inflicts on electronic materials could be at least 10 times greater than previously thought, thanks to a new characterization method that uses a combination of lasers and acoustic waves to provide scientists with a way to look through solid materials to identify the size and location of defects. The new method can detect disruption in the positions of the electrons attached to atoms, which is important because it is the behavior of the electrons that determine a material's electrical and optical properties. The researchers upgraded a 15-year-old method called coherent acoustic phonon spectroscopy to detect the electron dislocations. The researchers tested their technique on a layer of gallium arsenide semiconductor that they had irradiated with high-energy neon atoms and found the structural damage caused by an embedded neon atom spread over a 1,000-atom volume. "Techniques like the one that we have developed will give us the detailed information we need to figure this out and so help people make nanodevices that work properly," says Vanderbilt professor Norman Tolk.
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