Department of Chemistry

School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

UT Dallas Goes to Los Alamos to Explore Applications for Quantum Dots

UT Dallas Professors John Ferraris and Anvar Zakhidov have both received one-year awards from The Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT), a Department of Energy/Office of Science Nanoscale Science Research Center (NSRC) located in Los Alamos National Laboratories to work with the world-renowned quantum dot researcher Victor Klimov and other members of his group including Han Htoon and Anton Malko, a LANL post doctorate researcher who will join UT Dallas’s faculty as an assistant professor in the fall.  It will be the first time UT Dallas work will be performed at a Los Alamos facility.

The plan is for these professors to combine the outstanding materials science work that is done at UT Dallas with the excellent quantum dot research at CINT.  Under the terms of the grant, the center will give the researchers access to state-of-the-art equipment which would be otherwise very difficult and expensive for them to access. 

The two projects, which are independent of one another, explore different uses for quantum dots.  Quantum dots are semi-conducting crystals of nanometer dimensions. They have unusual quantum optical properties due to the confinement of electron-hole pairs (called excitons) to the particle.  Because the particles are so small, the properties exhibited by the quantum dots differ substantially from the properties of the same material in bulk.  These unexpected behaviors make quantum dots a very exciting research topic with the potential for many varied applications.
Zakhidov’s research, which will begin in early August when UT Dallas student Erica Neiser visits CINT for two weeks, studies the negative refraction of synthetic opals and other photonic crystals by embedding quantum dots in them.  The theory is that the combination of the dots and the opals can be used to bend the light in unusual ways which can then be incorporated into new lenses with super resolution, a so-called “superlens.”  It also could be used as a coating for materials that could reflect light – making Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak a reality.  Once Erica has spent a couple of weeks at CINT embedding the dots and doing some measurements, another student, Alexander Kuznetsov will travel to CINT to continue and expand the research. 

Ferraris’ research is on improving the efficiency of solar cells.  Theoretically, the best way to increase the efficiency is to increase the number of excitons each photon creates.  Quantum dots, in the right polymer, appear to be able to do just that. Ferraris and his group want to create composites of quantum dots and conducting polymers by synthesizing the dots in-situ in the polymers.  This method should remove the need for insulating materials used to keep the quantum dots from clumping which have the unfortunate side effect of also limiting the helpful properties of the quantum dots.  Dr. Ferraris said that the preliminary results had been very encouraging but access to the CINT quantum dots will greatly assist in confirming their initial work.  His student, Miaoxin Zhou, will travel to CINT to begin the work after his Ph.D. defense.

UT Dallas has a good relationship with Los Alamos.  Several Eugene McDermott Scholars have done summer internships at the lab, researching such diverse topics as modeling supernovas and programming SWIFT, a recently-launched gamma ray burst detection satellite.  In 2004, the UT System signed an agreement with the lab to pursue research collaboration. 

Both agreements are for one year, but can be renewed for additional years.

  • Updated: August 16, 2007