Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Phototropic growth control of nanoscale pattern formation in photoelectrodeposited Se-Te films.

PMID 24218617


Photoresponsive materials that adapt their morphologies, growth directions, and growth rates dynamically in response to the local incident electromagnetic field would provide a remarkable route to the synthesis of complex 3D mesostructures via feedback between illumination and the structure that develops under optical excitation. We report the spontaneous development of ordered, nanoscale lamellar patterns in electrodeposited selenium-tellurium (Se-Te) alloy films grown under noncoherent, uniform illumination on unpatterned substrates in an isotropic electrolyte solution. These inorganic nanostructures exhibited phototropic growth in which lamellar stripes grew toward the incident light source, adopted an orientation parallel to the light polarization direction with a period controlled by the illumination wavelength, and showed an increased growth rate with increasing light intensity. Furthermore, the patterns responded dynamically to changes during growth in the polarization, wavelength, and angle of the incident light, enabling the template-free and pattern-free synthesis, on a variety of substrates, of woodpile, spiral, branched, or zigzag structures, along with dynamically directed growth toward a noncoherent, uniform intensity light source. Full-wave electromagnetic simulations in combination with Monte Carlo growth simulations were used to model light-matter interactions in the Se-Te films and produced a model for the morphological evolution of the lamellar structures under phototropic growth conditions. The experiments and simulations are consistent with a phototropic growth mechanism in which the optical near-field intensity profile selects and reinforces the dominant morphological mode in the emergent nanoscale patterns.