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[en] In most climates, solar energy is readily available and can be used for water purification. But, solar disinfection of drinking water mostly relies on ultraviolet light, which represents only 4% of the total solar energy, and this leads to a slow treatment speed. Therefore, the development of new materials that can harvest visible light for water disinfection, and so speed up solar water purification, is highly desirable. Here we show that few-layered vertically aligned MoS_2 (FLV-MoS_2) films can be used to harvest the whole spectrum of visible light (~50% of solar energy) and achieve highly efficient water disinfection. The bandgap of MoS_2 was increased from 1.3 to 1.55 eV by decreasing the domain size, which allowed the FLV-MoS_2 to generate reactive oxygen species (ROS) for bacterial inactivation in the water. The FLV-MoS_2 showed a ~15 times better log inactivation efficiency of the indicator bacteria compared with that of bulk MoS_2, and a much faster inactivation of bacteria under both visible light and sunlight illumination compared with the widely used TiO_2. Moreover, by using a 5 nm copper film on top of the FLV-MoS_2 as a catalyst to facilitate electron–hole pair separation and promote the generation of ROS, the disinfection rate was increased a further sixfold. Here, we achieved water disinfection of >99.999% inactivation of bacteria in 20 min with a small amount of material (1.6 mg l–1) under simulated visible light.
[en] Colloidal semiconductor quantum dots are attractive materials for the realization of solution-processable lasers. However, their applications as optical-gain media are complicated by a non-unity degeneracy of band-edge states, because of which multiexcitons are required to achieve the lasing regime. This increases the lasing thresholds and leads to very short optical gain lifetimes limited by nonradiative Auger recombination. Here, we show that these problems can be at least partially resolved by employing not neutral but negatively charged quantum dots. By applying photodoping to specially engineered quantum dots with impeded Auger decay, we demonstrate a considerable reduction of the optical gain threshold due to suppression of ground-state absorption by pre-existing carriers. Moreover, by injecting approximately one electron per dot on average, we achieve a more than twofold reduction in the amplified spontaneous emission threshold, bringing it to the sub-single-exciton level. Furthermore, these measurements indicate the feasibility of ‘zero-threshold’ gain achievable by completely blocking the band-edge state with two electrons.
[en] Measurements on nanoscale structures constructed from high-temperature superconductors are expected to shed light on the origin of superconductivity in these materials. To date, loops made from these compounds have had sizes of the order of hundreds of nanometeres. Here, we report the results of measurements on loops of La1.84Sr0.16CuO4, a high-temperature superconductor that loses its resistance to electric currents when cooled below ∼38 K, with dimensions down to tens of nanometres. We observe oscillations in the resistance of the loops as a function of the magnetic flux through the loops. The oscillations have a period of h/2e, and their amplitude is much larger than the amplitude of the resistance oscillations expected from the Little-Parks effect. Moreover, unlike Little-Parks oscillations, which are caused by periodic changes in the superconducting transition temperature, the oscillations we observe are caused by periodic changes in the interaction between thermally excited moving vortices and the oscillating persistent current induced in the loops. However, despite the enhanced amplitude of these oscillations, we have not detected oscillations with a period of h/e, as recently predicted for nanoscale loops of superconductors with d-wave symmetry or with a period of h/4e, as predicted for superconductors that exhibit stripes.
[en] Here, research on two-dimensional designer optical structures, or metasurfaces, has mainly focused on controlling the wavefronts of light propagating in free space. Here, we show that gradient metasurface structures consisting of phased arrays of plasmonic or dielectric nanoantennas can be used to control guided waves via strong optical scattering at subwavelength intervals. Based on this design principle, we experimentally demonstrate waveguide mode converters, polarization rotators and waveguide devices supporting asymmetric optical power transmission. We also demonstrate all-dielectric on-chip polarization rotators based on phased arrays of Mie resonators with negligible insertion losses. Our gradient metasurfaces can enable small-footprint, broadband and low-loss photonic integrated devices.
[en] The detection and characterization of paramagnetic species by electron spin resonance (ESR) spectroscopy is widely used throughout chemistry, biology and materials science, from in vivo imaging to distance measurements in spin-labelled proteins. ESR relies on the inductive detection of microwave signals emitted by the spins into a coupled microwave resonator during their Larmor precession. However, such signals can be very small, prohibiting the application of ESR at the nanoscale (for example, at the single-cell level or on individual nanoparticles). Here in this work, using a Josephson parametric microwave amplifier combined with high-quality-factor superconducting microresonators cooled at millikelvin temperatures, we improve the state-of-the-art sensitivity of inductive ESR detection by nearly four orders of magnitude. We demonstrate the detection of 1,700 bismuth donor spins in silicon within a single Hahn echo with unit signal-to-noise ratio, reduced to 150 spins by averaging a single Carr-Purcell-Meiboom-Gill sequence. This unprecedented sensitivity reaches the limit set by quantum fluctuations of the electromagnetic field instead of thermal or technical noise, which constitutes a novel regime for magnetic resonance. In conclusion, the detection volume of our resonator is ~0.02nl, and our approach can be readily scaled down further to improve sensitivity, providing a new versatile toolbox for ESR at the nanoscale.
[en] The interaction of light and matter in metallic nanosystems is mediated by the collective oscillation of surface electrons, called plasmons. After excitation, plasmons are absorbed by the metal electrons through inter- and intraband transitions, creating a highly non-thermal distribution of electrons. The electron population then decays through electron-electron interactions, creating a hot electron distribution within a few hundred femtoseconds, followed by a further relaxation via electron-phonon scattering on the timescale of a few pico-seconds. In the spectral domain, hot plasmonic electrons induce changes to the plasmonic resonance of the nanostructure by modifying the dielectric constant of the metal. Here, we report on the observation of anomalously strong changes to the ultrafast temporal and spectral responses of these excited hot plasmonic electrons in hybrid metal/oxide nanostructures as a result of varying the geometry and composition of the nanostructure and the excitation wavelength. In particular, we show a large ultrafast, pulsewidth-limited contribution to the excited electron decay signal in hybrid nanostructures containing hot spots. The intensity of this contribution correlates with the efficiency of the generation of highly excited surface electrons. Using theoretical models, we attribute this effect to the generation of hot plasmonic electrons from hot spots. Finally, we then develop general principles to enhance the generation of energetic electrons through specifically designed plasmonic nanostructures that could be used in applications where hot electron generation is beneficial, such as in solar photocatalysis, photodetectors and nonlinear devices.
[en] Monolayer transition metal dichalcogenide crystals, as direct-gap materials with strong light–matter interactions, have attracted much recent attention. Because of their spin-polarized valence bands and a predicted spin splitting at the conduction band edges, the lowest-lying excitons in WX_2 (X = S, Se) are expected to be spin-forbidden and optically dark. To date, however, there has been no direct experimental probe of these dark excitons. Here, we show how an in-plane magnetic field can brighten the dark excitons in monolayer WSe2 and permit their properties to be observed experimentally. Precise energy levels for both the neutral and charged dark excitons are obtained and compared with ab initio calculations using the GW-BSE approach. As a result of their spin configuration, the brightened dark excitons exhibit much-increased emission and valley lifetimes. Furthermore, these studies directly probe the excitonic spin manifold and reveal the fine spin-splitting at the conduction band edges.
[en] Surface plasmon (SP) excitations in metals facilitate confinement of light into deep-subwavelength volumes and can induce strong light–matter interaction. Generally, the SP resonances supported by noble metal nanostructures are explained well by classical models, at least until the nanostructure size is decreased to a few nanometres, approaching the Fermi wavelength λ_F of the electrons. Although there is a long history of reports on quantum size effects in the plasmonic response of nanometre-sized metal particles systematic experimental studies have been hindered by inhomogeneous broadening in ensemble measurements, as well as imperfect control over size, shape, faceting, surface reconstructions, contamination, charging effects and surface roughness in single-particle measurements. In particular, observation of the quantum size effect in metallic films and its tuning with thickness has been challenging as they only confine carriers in one direction. Here, we show active tuning of quantum size effects in SP resonances supported by a 20-nm-thick metallic film of indium tin oxide (ITO), a plasmonic material serving as a low-carrier-density Drude metal. An ionic liquid (IL) is used to electrically gate and partially deplete the ITO layer. The experiment shows a controllable and reversible blue-shift in the SP resonance above a critical voltage. As a result, a quantum-mechanical model including the quantum size effect reproduces the experimental results, whereas a classical model only predicts a red shift.
[en] The interplay between magnetism and topology, as exemplified in the magnetic skyrmion systems, has emerged as a rich playground for finding novel quantum phenomena and applications in future information technology. Magnetic topological insulators (TI) have attracted much recent attention, especially after the experimental realization of quantum anomalous Hall effect. Future applications of magnetic TI hinge on the accurate manipulation of magnetism and topology by external perturbations, preferably with a gate electric field. In this work, we investigate the magneto transport properties of Cr doped Bi2(SexTe1-x)3 TI across the topological quantum critical point (QCP). We find that the external gate voltage has negligible effect on the magnetic order for samples far away from the topological QCP. However, for the sample near the QCP, we observe a ferromagnetic (FM) to paramagnetic (PM) phase transition driven by the gate electric field. Theoretical calculations show that a perpendicular electric field causes a shift of electronic energy levels due to the Stark effect, which induces a topological quantum phase transition and consequently a magnetic phase transition. Finally, the in situ electrical control of the topological and magnetic properties of TI shed important new lights on future topological electronic or spintronic device applications.
[en] Transition metal dichalcogenide semiconductors represent elementary components of layered heterostructures for emergent technologies beyond conventional opto-electronics. In their monolayer form they host electrons with quantized circular motion and associated valley polarization and valley coherence as key elements of opto-valleytronic functionality. Here, we introduce two-dimensional polarimetry as means of direct imaging of the valley pseudospin degree of freedom in monolayer transition metal dichalcogenides. Using MoS_2 as a representative material with valley-selective optical transitions, we establish quantitative image analysis for polarimetric maps of extended crystals, and identify valley polarization and valley coherence as sensitive probes of crystalline disorder. Moreover, we find site-dependent thermal and non-thermal regimes of valley-polarized excitons in perpendicular magnetic fields. Finally, we demonstrate the potential of widefield polarimetry for rapid inspection of opto-valleytronic devices based on atomically thin semiconductors and heterostructures.