Nano Research

Article Title

Broadband electroluminescence from reverse breakdown in individual suspended carbon nanotube pn-junctions


ballistic, avalanche, high-field, band-to-band, photoemission


There are various mechanisms of light emission in carbon nanotubes (CNTs), which give rise to a wide range of spectral emission characteristics that provide important information regarding the underlying physical processes that lead to photon emission. Here, we report spectra obtained from individual suspended CNT dual-gate field effect transistor (FET) devices under different gate and bias conditions. By applying opposite voltages to the gate electrodes (i.e., Vg1 = –Vg2), we are able to create a pn-junction within the suspended region of the CNT. Under forward bias conditions, the spectra exhibit a peak corresponding to E11 exciton emission via thermal (i.e., blackbody) emission occurring at electrical powers around 8 μW, which corresponds to a power density of approximately 0.5 MW/cm2. On the other hand, the spectra observed under reverse bias correspond to impact ionization and avalanche emission, which occurs at electrical powers of ~ 10 nW and exhibits a featureless flat spectrum extending from 1,600 nm to shorter wavelengths up to 600 nm. Here, the hot electrons generated by the high electric fields (~ 0.5 MV/cm) are able to produce high energy photons far above the E11 (ground state) energy. It is somewhat surprising that these devices do not exhibit light emission by the annihilation of electrons and holes under forward bias, as in a light emitting diode (LED). Possible reasons for this are discussed, including Auger recombination.

Graphical Abstract


Tsinghua University Press