Nitrides Race Beyond the Light

Science  26 Mar 2010:
Vol. 327, Issue 5973, pp. 1598-1599
DOI: 10.1126/science.327.5973.1598

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Blue light–emitting diodes and the blue lasers used in modern "Blu-ray" DVD players, as well as white LEDs that are now poised to usher incandescent light bulbs into the trash bin of technological history, all were made possible by advances in making nitrogen-based semiconductors, known as nitrides. Advances in optical devices made from one such nitride, gallium nitride, continue at a rapid pace. Researchers in Germany and Japan reported last year, for example, that they had made the first-ever green laser diodes from indium gallium nitride, an advance that could make possible a new generation of tiny full-color projectors. Researchers are reporting similar success with nitride-based electronic devices, including transistors that work at high speeds and at high temperatures, novel solar cells, and ultrasmall chemical sensors. Such devices have the potential to outperform better-known silicon electronics for a wide range of applications.