March's Paper of the Month

An optical image of black phosporus mid-IR photodetector. 

An optical image of black phosporus mid-IR photodetector. 

The element phosphorus has several different allotropes, including the thermodynamically stable form, black phosphorus (BP). BP has interesting properties which make it useful for the optoelectrical field, such as its layered structure, bandgap in the mid-infrared range and high carrier mobility. 

HgxCd(1-x)Te (MCT) is generally regarded as the most popular mid-infrared material, whose composition can be tuned by in material growth process. However dynamical, in-situ tuning of its optical properties has never been achieved, limiting its ability. 

The Paper of the Month for March, discovered black phosphorus could be useful for in-situ tunable mid-infrared applications. They leveraged a thin layer of black phosphorus sandwiched between hexagonal boron nitride (HBN) and applied an electric field to tune its optical properties. This expanded the photo-response of the mid-infrared photodetectors from 3.7 to 7.7 µm. Other than photodetectors, high speed mid-infrared modulators can be readily constructed using the same concept. 

They used the heating and cooling probe stage, the HFS600E-PB4, together with an FTIR spectrometer for the temperature-dependent photo-response measurements. 

Their results prove promising. The layered nature of BP, the high intrinsic mobility and strong photo-response in the broad mid-IR wavelength range make it an ideal material for high-speed mid-IR photodetectors, modulators and spectrometers. 

By Tabassum Mujtaba

Xia et al., Widely tunable black phosphorus mid-infrared photodetector. (2017) Nature Communicationsvolume 8, Article number: 1672 doi:10.1038/s41467-017-01978-3