Rice University materials scientists have made a fundamental discovery that could make it easier for engineers to build electronic circuits out of the much-touted nano material graphene.
Graphene's stock shot sky-high last year when the nano-material attracted the Nobel Prize in physics.
Graphene is a layer of carbon atoms that is just one atom thick. When stacked atop one another, graphene sheets form graphite, the material found in pencils the world over.
Thanks to the tools of nanotechnology, scientists today can make, manipulate and study graphene with ease. Its unique properties make it ideal for creating faster, more energy-efficient computers and other nano-electronic devices.
But there are hurdles. To make tiny circuits out of graphene, engineers need to find ways to create intricate patterns of graphene that are separated by a similarly thin nonconductive material. One possible solution is "white graphene," one-atom-thick sheets of boron and nitrogen that are physically similar to graphene but are electrically nonconductive.
In a new paper in the journal Nano Letters, Rice materials scientist Boris Yakobson and colleagues describe a discovery that could make it possible for nano-electronic designers to use well-understood chemical procedures to precisely control the electronic properties of "alloys" that contain both white and black graphene.