Humans have long sought to create organised shapes and patterns, sometimes for specific purposes and sometimes just in search of something beautiful.

Imagine the beginnings of the perfect garden, how could we guide its growth to fit our plans? We would need to seed plants in regimented rows, build trellising to direct chaotic plants and perhaps use greenhouses for the perfect control of temperature. Without such direction this garden would be an unruly and disordered mess.

Much like how we can exert control over this imaginary garden, in my PhD I am finding ways to control perfect crystals of perovskite. Like in the natural world, when crystals are formed we refer to this process as growth. A scientist growing perovskites has lots of options available to them to control them, such as temperature, time, reagents and trellis-like templating. Uncontrolled and inappropriate conditions will lead to wild perovskite growth, yielding structures that are so “messy” that they do not perform as well in their desired applications. But what are these “perovskites”? Perovskite is a type of mineral, that when artificially made they have been found to perform really well as a semiconductor. Unlike metals, semiconductors transport electricity only under certain conditions such as when they are struck by light. In the case of perovskites these properties are particularly good, leading to a huge amount of research investigating applications in solar energy, lighting and detection. In my research I am exploring how perfect perovskite crystals can be grown in designed and organised patterns which enables the fabrication of high performance detectors for both light and X-rays.

Alice Dearle

NanoDTC Student, c2018