The double helix shape gives inorganic semiconductors great electrical properties and flexibility.
The main purpose of using DNA in nanodevices was to engineer it to behave like a semiconductor. But what if we could develop inorganic semiconductors with DNA properties like flexibility?
The electronics industry will soon find out. In inorganic semiconductor materials, scientists at the Technical University of Munich have discovered a DNA-like double helix structure. Tin (Sn), iodine (I), and phosphorus (P) have the chemical name SnIP. These three components combine together to create the double helix structure of SnIP.
According to a study published in the journal Advanced Materials, the atoms in the centimeter-long fibers are arranged in a double helix, which breaks the material into smaller strands.
TUM scientists were able to create fibers a few nanometers thick from five double helix strands in the lab. In the researchers’ opinion, the ability to shrink fibers to this level opens up a wide range of possibilities for nanoelectronics.
The ability to scale up the manufacture of double helix materials beyond the milligram scale is a significant advance.
In a news release, TUM Professor Tom Nilges, who conducted the research, said, “The combination of particularly attractive semiconductor properties and mechanical flexibility gives us tremendous confidence for future applications.”
“We expect to obtain much improved stability from inorganic materials compared to organic solar cells. For example, SnIP is stable up to about 500 °C (930 °F).”
“To my knowledge, this material is the first double-helical material made on the gram scale,” Nilzis said in an email interview with IEEE Spectrum. Since solid-phase preparations are common in the business, I have little doubt that companies can upscale such materials. No. Nilges notes that this contrasts with carbon nanotubes, which are not
readily accessible in phase-pure form, and that the production process is direct synthesis with pure materials at the end of the line.
Patent applications have been filed for solar cells, thermoelectric devices, and potential uses for water splitting,
Nilges added, “if we find business interested in this material, device implementation is possible.” In this case, 1-2 years would be a reasonable period of time, we are now looking for companies we are interested in. Once the industry gets involved, the timetable will probably be reduced.