Graphene could be the superhero of materials – it’s light, strong and conducts heat and electricity effectively, which makes it a great material for potential use in all kinds of electronics. And because it’s made from carbon atoms, graphene is cheap and plentiful. Its electric and mechanical properties also affect one another in unique ways. But before freestanding graphene can live up to its potential, scientists need to be able to control these properties.
University of Arizona physicists are making discoveries that may advance electronic circuit technology and bring the graphene computer chip a step closer to being a reality.
The tricky part physicists have yet to figure out how to control the flow of electrons through the material, a necessary prerequisite for putting it to work in any type of electronic circuit. Graphene behaves very different than silicon, the material currently used in semiconductors.
Mixing a little dry ice and a simple industrial process cheaply mass-produces high-quality graphene nanosheets, researchers in South Korea and Case Western Reserve University report.
Graphene, which is made from graphite, the same stuff as “lead” in pencils, has been hailed as the most important synthetic material in a century. Sheets conduct electricity better than copper, heat better than any material known, are harder than diamonds yet stretch.
The latest and possibly greenest of graphene production methods has emerged from work conducted at Toyohashi University in Japan. Research conducted by a team lead by Yuji Tanizawa has shown that microorganisms can be usefully employed to reduce grahene oxide flakes by means of respiration and electron transport. The new method vastly improves the current hydrazine vapour and high temperature techniques which are toxic and uneconomical.
For those that haven’t been paying attention, graphene is a wonder material