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Hexagonalboron nitride is a solid material that has amazing potential to be used in optics, biology, and other health sciences. This attracts more and more attention from around the globe. Professor Bernard Gil (National Centre for Scientific Research), as well as Professor Guillaume Cassabois from the University of Montpellier made important contributions to the physics of this fascinating material and to its ability to interact and control electromagnetic radiation. They have teamed up with James H. Edgar, Kansas State University USA to examine the use of hexagonal boron nutride in developing quantum information technologies. Professor Edgar has been working on advanced technologies to make high purity boron Nitride crystals.
Hexagonalboron Nitride (hBN), a versatile solid material, plays an important role in many traditional applications. It can be used for lubrication, cosmetic powder formulations, thermal control, neutron detection, and other purposes. HBN, which was originally synthesized in 1842 from a fragile powder, has a layered structure that is different than graphite. This includes tightly bound B, N atoms that are superimposed in a network plan of weak interactions. A similar process can be used to make graphene from graphite, and monolayers of hBN. hBN actually sits at the intersections of two worlds. It is widely used in shortwave, solid-state light sources as well as layered semiconductors such a graphene and transition metallic halogens. Nevertheless, hBN exhibits distinct properties from both these classes of materials making it a potentially widespread candidate material.
HBN crystal growth
Since 2004, the field of hBN research and its application has seen a breakthrough in the form of new techniques to grow large (11.2 mm3) hBN single-crystals. Kansas State University’s Professor Edgar and his colleagues have been key players in this area. They investigated the factors that influence the growth of crystals, their quality and eventual size, as also the effects on doping impurities or changing the boron ratio. HBN crystals are formed from solutions of molten elements, such as chromium or nickel, and can dissolve boron. Professor Edgar and collaborators demonstrated crystals made of pure boron have a higher quality than crystals made with hBN powder. They also examined the effects of gas composition, metal solvent selection, and crucible type upon the growth process.
Additionally, the research team developed new techniques to produce isotopically pure HBN crystals. Natural boron can be described as a mixture of two isotopes, either boron-10 (20%) or boron-11 (80%). Although they have different nuclear masses, the chemical properties are identical and produce an indistinguishable structure for hBN. However, the LATTICE (or hBN) of an isotope has a significant effect on its vibration modes. These are also known as Phonons. Crystals with boron-10 or boron-11 have longer phonon lifespans. The crystal structure’s random distribution of boron Isotopes causes phonon modes and their lifetime to disperse faster. The hBN has only one boron Isotope. Phonon scattering is decreased and the lifetime of phonons is extended. This reduces the hBN’s thermal conductivity and makes it more efficient at dissipating warmth. Its optical characteristics are also very important, particularly in the field nanophotonics. This is the study of light reduced to dimensions below free space wavelengths. In this instance, the wavelength of light for h10BN has been reduced by 150.
Modern quantum technology relies on the ability of individual photons to be generated and manipulated. Single-photon sources emit light, unlike traditional thermal sources like incandescent lamps or coherent sources like lasers. These single-photon source emit light in the form single quantum particles (photons). They interact with other photons and can be used for storage and generation of new information in quantum computing. In some cases, single-photon source can be a defect in crystal structures caused by impurity and atoms. In the case hBN, the possibility of a high-density defect combined with a large range provides an opportunity for a support single-photon source. Quantum applications are significantly more spectral than pure nanophotonics, as they require higher sample purity.
Photoluminescence experiments with hBN samples containing C and Si impurities showed that the spectral characteristics are significantly higher at 4.1eV light energy than pure hBN. Single-photon emission has been reported in recent cathode luminescence studies (in which phonon emissions are induced by an electronic beam), but it is not observed in laser-induced emit (photoluminescence). In photoluminescence experiments, many spectral lines lower than 4 eV have been seen. These may be due to single-photon emission defect in this energy range. These defects are still controversial. Although the phenomena of single-photon emitting hBN is complicated, the research of Professors Edgar Gil, Cassabois and Cassabois provides solid evidence of the extraordinary capabilities of this material in the field quantum technology.
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