To tune the band gap, a key parameter in controlling the electrical conductivity and optical properties of semiconductors, researchers typically engineer alloys, a process in which two or more materials are combined to achieve properties that otherwise could not be achieved by a pristine material.


But engineering band gaps of conventional semiconductors via alloying has often been a guessing game, because scientists have not had a technique to directly "see" whether the alloy's atoms are arranged in a specific pattern, or randomly dispersed.


Now, as reported in Physical Review Letters, a research team led by Alex Zettl and Marvin Cohen—senior faculty scientists in the Materials Sciences Division at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), and professors of physics at UC Berkeley—has demonstrated a new technique that could engineer the needed to improve the performance of semiconductors for next-generation electronics such as optoelectronics, thermoelectrics, and sensors.

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