An international collaboration - The Chiral Materials Team - were awarded the 2022 Chemistry Division Horizon Prize known as the Stephanie L Kwolek Award for their discovery of chiral organic materials that allow high control of photon and electron spin.
Lead groups from London, the Netherlands and Israel, worked in collaboration with a large international network of scientists, to develop chiral organics or photon/electron spin control.
The Team explained that a vast array of current and future technologies rely on the precise control of a fundamental property of electrons and light waves called spin. While current applications span computer memory and 3D displays, future opportunities range from quantum computing and sensing to high-performance displays and authentication products.
They have pioneered an alternative approach to control light wave and electron spin in organic materials through the use of a basic property of symmetry/shape called chirality. Objects, including molecules, are defined as chiral if they exist as a pair of "left handed" or "right handed" mirror images that cannot be superimposed. It is becoming increasingly apparent that chiral molecules have electronic and spintronic properties that are beyond what was previously understood.
Diamond Beamline Scientist Tamas Javorfi comments;
The newly acquired B23 Mueller Matrix Polarimeter (MMP) beamline end station at Diamond allowed us to separate the different polarization effects. This can provide valuable data not only for quality control/manufacturing purposes but also for theoreticians working on modelling the optical properties of thin films of solid chiral materials. The MMP coupled with the super bright synchrotron light source of B23, which provides the hight spatial resolution, is not available anywhere else in the world.
Established strategies to achieve control of spin in these applications rely on materials and approaches that have serious limitations including excessive cost, complicated requirements for construction, and the need to operate at cryogenic temperatures. Carbon-based organic materials offer a considerable opportunity to overcome such limitations; however, organic materials do not traditionally allow for high control of spin. The team have used such behaviour to develop chiral materials that achieve very high spin control in organic materials at room temperature, opening the door to many future opportunities in applications reliant on spin.
Giuliano Siligardi, Principal Beamline Scientist on B23 at Diamond explains;
The ability to “see” at high spatial resolution the supramolecular structures of the chiral polymers assembly that dictate directly their optoelectronic property was not straight forward as it must be decomposed from other optical properties often present in the polymer films. If it can be seen, the process of screening material assemblies with the highest supramolecular structure can be controlled and optimised in a iterative manner. Diamond B23 CD imaging facility enables that, and it can be used to make the film preparation of chiral polymer reproducible that is the sine qua non for any commercial application.
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