Jul 26, 2017

Mysterious molecules in space

Over the vast, empty reaches of interstellar space, countless small molecules tumble quietly though the cold vacuum. Forged in the fusion furnaces of ancient stars and ejected into space when those stars exploded, these lonely molecules account for a significant amount of all the carbon, hydrogen, silicon and other atoms in the universe. In fact, some 20 percent of all the carbon in the universe is thought to exist as some form of interstellar molecule.Mysterious molecules in space
This graph shows absorption wavelength as a function of the number of carbon atoms in the silicon-terminated carbon chains SiC_(2n+1)H, for the extremely strong pi-pi electronic transitions. When the chain contains 13 or more carbon atoms - not significantly longer than carbon chains already known to exist in space - these strong transitions overlap with the spectral region occupied by the elusive diffuse interstellar bands. Credit: D. Kokkin, ASU

Many astronomers hypothesize that these  are also responsible for an observed phenomenon on Earth known as the "diffuse interstellar bands," spectrographic proof that something out there in the universe is absorbing certain distinct colors of light from stars before it reaches the Earth. But since we don't know the exact chemical composition and atomic arrangements of these mysterious , it remains unproven whether they are, in fact, responsible for the diffuse interstellar bands.

Now in a paper appearing this week in The Journal of Chemical Physics, from AIP Publishing, a group of scientists led by researchers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. has offered a tantalizing new possibility: these mysterious molecules may be silicon-capped hydrocarbons like SiC3H, SiC4H and SiC5H, and they present data and theoretical arguments to back that hypothesis.

At the same time, the group cautions that history has shown that while many possibilities have been proposed as the source of diffuse interstellar bands, none has been proven definitively.

"There have been a number of explanations over the years, and they cover the gamut," said Michael McCarthy a senior physicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who led the study.

Molecules in Space and How We Know They're There

Astronomers have long known that interstellar molecules containing carbon atoms exist and that by their nature they will absorb light shining on them from stars and other luminous bodies. Because of this, a number of scientists have previously proposed that some type of interstellar molecules are the source of diffuse interstellar bands—the hundreds of dark absorption lines seen in color spectrograms taken from Earth.

In showing nothing, these dark bands reveal everything. The missing colors correspond to photons of given wavelengths that were absorbed as they travelled through the vast reaches of space before reaching us. More than that, if these photons were filtered by falling on space-based molecules, the wavelengths reveal the exact energies it took to excite the electronic structures of those absorbing molecules in a defined way.

Armed with that information, scientists here on Earth should be able to use spectroscopy to identify those interstellar molecules—by demonstrating which molecules in the laboratory have the same absorptive "fingerprints." But despite decades of effort, the identity of the molecules that account for the diffuse interstellar bands remains a mystery. Nobody has been able to reproduce the exact same absorption spectra in laboratories here on Earth.

"Not a single one has been definitively assigned to a specific molecule," said Neil Reilly, a former postdoctoral fellow at Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and a co-author of the new paper.

Now Reilly, McCarthy and their colleagues are pointing to an unusual set of molecules—silicon-terminated carbon chain radicals—as a possible source of these mysterious bands.

As they report in their new paper, the team first created silicon-containing carbon chains SiC3H, SiC4H and SiC5H in the laboratory using a jet-cooled silane-acetylene discharge. They then analyzed their spectra and carried out theoretical calculations to predict that longer chains in this family might account for some portion of the diffuse interstellar bands.

However, McCarthy cautioned that the work has not yet revealed the smoking gun source of the diffuse interstellar bands. In order to prove that these larger silicon capped  are such a source, more work needs to be done in the laboratory to define the exact types of transitions these molecules undergo, and these would have to be directly related to astronomical observations. But the study provides a tantalizing possibility for finding the elusive source of some of the mystery absorption bands—and it reveals more of the rich molecular diversity of space.

"The  is a fascinating environment," McCarthy said. "Many of the things that are quite abundant there are really unknown on Earth."

More information: The Journal of Chemical Physics, July 29, 2014. DOI: 10.1063/1.4883521 
Journal reference: Journal of Chemical Physics  
Source: PHYS
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Jul 19, 2017

Investigation of spatial charge distribution and electrical dipole in atomic layer deposited Al2O3 on 4H-SiC


Charge distribution and electrical dipole in an Al2O3/4H-SiC structure are investigated by capacitance–voltage measurement and x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS). The charge densities in Al2O3 and at the Al2O3/4H-SiC interface are negligible and  −6.89  ×  1011 cm−2, respectively. Thus the small charge amount indicates the suitability of Al2O3 as a gate dielectric. The dipole at the Al2O3/4H-SiC interface is  −0.3 to  −0.91 V. The XPS manifests electron transfer from Al2O3 to 4H-SiC. The dipole formation is explained by a gap state model and the higher charge neutrality level of Al2O3 than the Fermi level of 4H-SiC, which confirms the feasibility of the gap state model on investigating band lineup at heterojunctions. The electrical dipole at the Al2O3/4H-SiC interface is critical for threshold voltage tuning. These results are helpful in engineering the SiC based gate stacks.

Source:  iopscience

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Jul 11, 2017

Evaluation of nitrogen incorporation into bulk 4H-SiC grown on seeds of different orientation from optical absorption spectra


The effectiveness of n-type nitrogen doping of bulk 4H-SiC grown on seeds of different orientation is studied by optical absorption measurements. The 4H-SiC ingots have been grown by physical vapour transport (PVT), with nitrogen doping from the SiC source. The nitrogen concentration was determined at room temperature from the absorption peak intensity at 464 nm, with account for the degree of donor ionization. It has been shown that 4H-SiC ingots grown on Si (11-22) faces are significantly less doped by nitrogen than the ones grown on C (11-2-2).

Source:  iopscience

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Jul 7, 2017

α-SiC nanoscale transit-time diodes: performance of the photo-irradiated terahertz sources at elevated temperature


The effects of elevated junction temperature on the terahertz (THz) frequency characteristics of α-(hexagonal, 4H and 6H) silicon carbide (SiC) based double-drift region (DDR, p++ p n n++ type) impact ionization avalanche transit-time (IMPATT) devices are studied and compared for the first time through simulation experiments. This study reveals that at 300 K < T < 600 K, a 4H-SiC IMPATT diode may yield 3.5 W of output power (efficiency (η) ~ 8.6%) at 1.3 THz, while its 6H-SiC counterpart can deliver 3 W of output power (η = 6.3%) at 1.2 THz. It is interesting to observe that at elevated temperature, the performance of a 6H-SiC IMPATT diode degrades more in comparison with its 4H-SiC counterpart. These comparative analyses reveal the superiority of 4H-SiC diodes over their 6H-SiC counterparts, and thus establish the potential of the former as a high-power THz IMPATT oscillator even in harsh environments. Mobile space charge effects and the effect of positive series resistance on the high-temperature performance of the THz devices are also simulated, and it is found that series resistance reduces the output power level of the diodes by at least 15.0%. Moreover, the effects of increased junction temperature on the photo-sensitivity of top mounted (TM) and flip chip (FC) α-SiC IMPATTs are also investigated using a modified simulation technique. The device operating frequencies, under TM illumination configuration, shifts upward by at least 40.0 GHz, whereas the operating frequency shifts upward by at least 100.0 GHz under FC illumination configuration. The simulation results and the proposed experimental methodology presented here may be used for realizing optically controlled α-SiC transit-time devices for application in THz communication.
Source:  iopscience
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