Researchers from KU Leuven (Belgium), the University of Strasbourg, and CNRS have discovered a new phosphor that could make next-generation fluorescent and LED lighting even cheaper and more efficient.

The team used highly luminescent clusters of silver atoms and the porous framework of minerals known as zeolites.

Silver clusters consist of just a few silver atoms and have remarkable optical properties. However, current applications are limited, because the clusters tend to aggregate into larger particles, thus losing the interesting optical properties.

Professor Hofkens and his team from the Molecular Imaging and Photonics Unit have now found a way to keep the silver clusters apart by inserting them into the porous framework of zeolites. The result: stable silver clusters that maintain their unique optical properties.

Zeolites are minerals that are either found in nature or produced synthetically on an industrial scale. The minerals have a very rigid and well-defined framework of small molecular-sized channels, pores, and cages. They’re commonly used in domestic and industrial applications such as washing detergent and water treatment.

Professor Maarten Roeffaers from the Centre for Surface Chemistry and Catalysis explains: “Zeolites contain sodium or potassium ions. We used ion exchange to replace these ions with silver ions. To obtain the clusters we wanted, we heated up the zeolites with the silver ions, so that the silver ions self-assembled into clusters.”

In collaboration with Professor Peter Lievens’s Laboratory for Solid State Physics and Magnetism, the researchers examined the properties of these heat-treated ‘silver zeolites’. Using advanced techniques, they found that the structural, electronic, and optical properties of the zeolites were strongly influenced by the silver clusters… Read the full article at Electronics Weekly.