Washington, DC—It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of silicon when it comes to computing, solar energy, and other technological applications. (Not to mention the fact that it makes up an awful lot of the Earth’s crust.) Yet there is still so much to learn about how to harness the capabilities of element number 14.
The most-common form of silicon crystallizes in the same structure as diamond. But other forms can be created using different processing techniques. New work led by the Geophysical Laboratory's Tim Strobel and published in Physical Review Letters shows that one form of silicon, called Si-III (or sometimes BC8), which is synthesized using a high-pressure process, is what’s called a narrow band gap semiconductor.