Dr. Doron Naveh - Combining Theoretical and Experimental Work

Five years ago, Dr. Doron Naveh theoretically had it made. After completing his PhD at the Weizmann Institute of Science, he had just moved to Princeton University for a post-doc with one of the world’s top research groups in computational physics and applied mathematics. But Naveh felt that his focus should be on the combination of theoretical and experimental work he loved most. Luckily, breaking news would provide Naveh with the career change he was looking for. “I was at a conference when I heard about grants available for the study of a carbon-based material called graphene, which was the subject of the 2010 Nobel Prize in physics,” Naveh recalls. “I took a position at Carnegie Mellon, where I was able to get into the examination of graphene on the ground floor.”

 

A practical orientation is suited to Naveh, who admits to predicating any theoretical study he undertakes by asking himself whether the research shows reasonable promise of results that are both fundamentally interesting and have technological potential. In the case of graphene, the market indicators agree: this cheap and flexible material seems poised to be the “next big thing.”

 

“As a conductor of electricity, graphene performs better than copper, and as a conductor of heat it outperforms all other known materials,” Naveh explains. “It is almost completely transparent, yet so dense that not even helium, the smallest gas atom, can pass through it. Along with all this, it’s the world’s strongest material – harder than diamond, and about 300 times stronger than steel.”

 

So just how can these exceptional properties be put to work? “In our lab, we have three layers of activity,” Naveh says. “First is the theoretical, in which we try to identify promising directions, calculate possible scenarios, and determine whether a graphene-based device would be both interesting and useful. The second task is to synthesize or modify graphene in order to give the material special functionalities. For example, we can ‘dope’ graphene with other materials, to change its electrical, magnetic or optical properties. The third layer is actually making devices – like transistors and sensors – out of the graphene or its composites that we produce.”

 

According to Naveh, graphene may eventually solve thorny problems associated with silicon electronics. “The ability of graphene to serve as a conduit for electric charge is 200 times better than silicon,” he says. “This translates into the potential for devices with

frequencies as high as 300 GHz – about 100 times faster than the silicon electronics of the present day.”  Graphene may also catch the wave of the mobile device revolution. “In the future, if technologists succeed in using graphene as the basis for transistors, it is

predicted that these would require just one-third of the voltage theoretically needed by today’s most efficient transistors made of silicon. This translates into a massive saving in battery power, and longer functionality between charges.”

 

In his recent research, Naveh focuses on graphene attached to semiconductor quantum dots – nanocrystals that are seen as promising materials for solid-state lighting, photovoltaics and biotechnology. “Quantum dots that incorporate graphene are about

a million times more efficient than those made with more conventional materials,” Naveh says. “This could transform everything from night vision equipment to optical communications, because less power would be needed to create a dense and efficient information flow.”

 

Now back in Israel – and living with his wife and children in the same Petach Tikvah neighborhood in which he grew up – Naveh looks forward to re-connecting with colleagues from both BINA and the Faculty of Engineering. And in the world of graphene-based nanoelectronics, connections are what it’s all about. “In addition to devices, I hope to find a way to use graphene as a replacement for the copper interconnects between circuits,” he says. “This could lead to radically miniatured devices that are smaller, and use less energy than ever before. Making these tiny devices work, and developing a viable technology that would revolutionize electronic devices is a career challenge.”

For more on Dr. Naveh click here.