A Semimetal Nanowire Rectifier: Balancing Quantum Confinement and Surface Electronegativity

Alfonso Sanchez-Soares, James C. Greer

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


For semimetal nanowires with diameters on the order of 10 nm, a semimetal-to-semiconductor transition is observed due to quantum confinement effects. Quantum confinement in a semimetal lifts the degeneracy of the conduction and valence bands in a zero gap semimetal or shifts energy levels with a negative overlap to form conduction and valence bands. For semimetal nanowires with diameters less than 10 nm, the band gap energy can be significantly larger than the thermal energy at room temperature resulting in a new class of semiconductors suitable for nanoelectronics. As a nanowire's diameter is reduced, its surface-to-volume ratio increases rapidly leading to an increased impact of surface chemistry on its electronic structure. Energy level shifts to states in the vicinity of the Fermi energy with varying surface electronegativity are shown to be comparable in magnitude to quantum confinement effects arising in nanowires with diameters of a few nanometer; these two effects can counteract one another leading to semimetallic behavior at nanowire cross sections at which confinement effects would otherwise dominate. Abruptly changing the surface terminating species along the length of a nanowire can lead to an abrupt change in the surface electronegativity. This can result in the formation of a semimetal-semiconductor junction within a monomaterial nanowire without impurity doping nor requiring the formation of a heterojunction. Using density functional theory in tandem with a Green's function approach to determine electronic structure and charge transport, respectively, current rectification is calculated for such a junction. Current rectification ratios of the order of 103-105 are predicted at applied biases as low as 300 mV. It is concluded that rectification can be achieved at essentially molecular length scales with conventional biasing, while rivaling the performance of macroscopic semiconductor diodes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7639-7644
Number of pages6
JournalNano Letters
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Schottky junction
  • Semimetal nanowire
  • quantum confinement
  • surface chemical modification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • General Chemistry
  • General Materials Science
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Mechanical Engineering


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