“There are many two-dimensional materials that can sense light, but none are as efficient as this material,” said Robert Vajtai, a senior faculty fellow.
“This material is 10 times more efficient than the best we have seen before,” Vajtai added.
To develop the material, the researchers synthesised copper indium selenide (CIS), a single-layer matrix of copper, indium and selenium atoms.
As the material is transparent, a CIS-based scanner might use light from one side to illuminate the image on the other for capture.
The material could also be an important component in two-dimensional electronics that capture images, graduate student Sidong Lei said.
To prove the material’s ability to capture an image, Lei also built a prototype – a three-pixel, charge coupled device (CCD).
CCDs are sensors used in digital cameras and video cameras to record still and moving images.
“CIS-based CCDs would be ultra-thin, transparent and flexible, and are the missing piece for things like 2-D imaging devices,” Lei added.
The device traps electrons formed when light hits the material and holds them until released for storage, he said.
The research could lead to the manufacture of tiny, bio-imaging devices that monitor real-time conditions.
The findings appeared this month in the journal Nano Letters.