Jasinski receives grant for research on phosphorene

November 6, 2018

 Dr. Jacek Jasinski, the team leader for Materials Characterization in the Conn Center for Renewable Energy, was awarded a grant from the Department of Energy, Basic Energy Sciences Division for his work to develop a new type of phosphorene, a two-dimensional (2D) allotrope of phosphorus. The grant, which totals almost $500K, will fund research into the synthesis of blue phosphorene, a currently predicted material with interesting properties at the quantum level that have yet to be demonstrated.

Working with Drs. Ming Yu and Gamini Sumanasekera, both of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Jasinski serves as the primary investigator for the team. Graphene, a well-known example of 2D material, which consists of a layer of graphite, has a unique in-plane bonding allowing for high mobility of electrons. Like graphene, phosphorene has comparably interesting properties. Of these, it can absorb light of different wavelengths, and can allow for separating electron and heat transport, which can be utilized in thermoelectrics.

He believes his research may yield fresh insight into how black phosphorous may be intercalated with alkali metals. This process of inserting alkali metal atoms between the layers of black phosphorus seems to be a key step in producing phosphorene by inducing the desired change of material structure.

“Last year we published a paper on phosphorene, a review paper on properties and applications of this material," said Jasinski. "Phosphorene has many potential applications; for instance, it can be applied for electrodes in electrochemical energy storage devices, such as lithium or sodium batteries. Even compared to graphene, this material has a lot more exotic properties.”

A relatively recent discovery, two-dimensional materials offer electronic and mechanical properties that conventional materials do not, which leads to their applications in transistors, batteries, and solar cells. Since the discovery of graphene in 2004, a single layer material made out of graphite and the first of this kind, scientists have worked to expand the possibilities of these exotic materials.

“Physicists found out that if you have a single layer, electrons behave differently than if they have a 3D space of bulk material to move in,” said Jasinski. “You start to influence the quantum behavior of electrons if they are in a single layer of atoms.”

Ultimately, Jasinski and his team have two outcomes that they desire in their process. For the first, they hope to discover new physics from the use of the material, relative to how atoms interact on a two-dimensional plane versus the traditional three dimensions that we employ.

“The problem with our research, is that there can be critics saying that our findings may be difficult to reproduce on a large scale,” said Jasinski. "However, even if you can produce just a little bit of this unique material, you can learn a lot from this even from small volumes.”

Beyond that, Jasinski hopes that they can find new ways to produce similar exotic, two-dimensional materials.

“There are some ways of maybe scaling up our approach. By producing this material, we will prove that it can be synthesized and that this method is really working. Our research may serve then as a blueprint for producing other novel materials through this method,” said Jasinski.