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Final 1Kalyanaraman’s team began their JDRD project by attempting to improve the materials used for optical sensor applications. Currently, the most effective element for these sensors is silver, which unfortunately degrades rapidly once exposed to air, sometimes within a matter of hours. To mitigate this issue, much of the existing technology utilizes gold, which does not perform nearly as well.

Kalyanaraman’s JDRD proposal suggests that by combining silver with other metals, including magnetic materials, the integrity as well as performance of the sensor devices could be improved. Indeed, their results have shown that the targeted optical sensor devices made from the combination of materials are much more stable with time as compared to those made from pure silver, and even show better performance.

Final 2In addition, during these investigations the team made a new and unexpected finding that has culminated in the discovery of a new type of material. This material, which is primarily derived from earth abundant compounds, could benefit many applications that require semiconductor materials with large optical transparency and large electrical conductivity while also being cost effective by being processable at room temperature.

“This is why science based research is so important, because it leads to new ideas. This discovery was completely unexpected and could open up entirely new fields of study,” said Kalyanaraman.

Kalyanaraman’s team is applying this new discovery to optical devices that can convert light into energy as well as for sensing and manipulation of the transmission of light. These new materials are likely to become a core technology in next generation threat assessment for national security purposes.

AFinal 3dditionally, his team’s groundbreaking discovery has far reaching implications in a variety of areas from flexible electronics to solar energy harvesting, solar water splitting, and disease detection. According to Kalyanaraman, this JDRD funded discovery has the potential to open up entirely new fields of study within materials science.