A new “electronic glue” for nanocrystals developed by researchers at the University of Chicago and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory promises to accelerate advances in semiconductor-based technologies, including solar cells and thermoelectric devices.

Semiconductor nanocrystals can be readily mass-produced and used for device manufacturing via inkjet printing and other solution-based processes. This makes them an attractive alternative to the large semiconductor crystals typically used in commercial solar cells and computer chips which are expensive and can make large-scale applications such as rooftop solar-energy collectors prohibitive.

However, up until now, nanocrystals are unable to efficiently transfer their electric charges to one another due to surface ligands - bulky, insulating organic molecules that cap nanocrystals. But the “electronic glue” developed in Dmitri Talapin's laboratory at the University of Chicago solves the ligand problem by substituting the insulating organic molecules with novel inorganic molecules to dramatically increase the electronic coupling between nanocrystals.

Talapin believes the “electronic glue” will enable cheaper solar panels and better computer microprocessors.

The "electronic glue" is described in the journal Science.

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