UofL physics research explores new forms of phosphorene

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Scientists at the University of Louisville have been funded by the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Basic Energy Science to study the material physics of phosphorene under foreign atom insertion and high pressure conditions. The study explores ways of synthesizing new forms of phosphorene, measuring its fundamental properties, and understanding its potential use in renewable energy technologies. Phosphorene is a few atoms-thick sheet of black phosphorus, which is similar in structure to graphite, a layered form of carbon. Phosphorus in red and white forms burns readily in air and has been used in matches and napalm. It is most commonly used now in agricultural fertilizer as phosphates. Black phosphorus can be produced by heating red phosphorus. DOE funding of the UofL team focuses on the effects of transforming this material under high pressure along with foreign metal atom insertion. By adjusting high pressure and metal types, phosphorene’s structure and other properties can be tuned for use in energy conversion and storage applications or even completely changed to reveal interesting phenomena.

The partnership is led by Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research materials scientist Jacek Jasinski, an expert in nanoscale materials characterization, physics professor Gamini Sumanasekera, an expert in the synthesis of phosphorene, and associate physics professor Ming Yu, an expert in computational modeling to design nanostructures. Funding of $489,200 over three years will support their fundamental study to understand different forms of phosphorene and their applications.

“Phosphorene is a unique material, with intriguing properties and potentially important uses,” states Jasinski, adding, “but the method for synthesizing it at commercial scale is a challenge. Our study will determine the first steps of tuning its structure and achieving desired properties at the atomic level. This work will pave the way for feasibility in next generation nanoscale devices that control light, electric charge, and efficient flow of electric current and heat.”