World’s Greatest Wonder Material…Upstaged

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The chemical structure of "new graphene"

Graphene is known as the world’s greatest wonder material.  It is 200 times stronger than steel, incredibly flexible and only 1 atom thick.  How could something upstage such an amazing material?

The ability to make inexpensively.

A University of Kentucky physicist is working with scientist from Daimler in Germany and the Institute for Electronic Structure and Laser (IESL) in Greece to create this new material.  This new material will be made from silicon, boron and nitrogen, making it less expensive than graphene and more stable.

The chemical structure of "new graphene"
The chemical structure of “new graphene”

Or so the theory states.

“We used simulations to see if the bonds would break or disintegrate – it didn’t happen,” said Madhu Menon, a physicist in the UK Centre for Computational Sciences. “We heated the material up to 1,000 degrees Celsius and it still didn’t break.”

The material has not actually been made, it only exists on computer simulations.

Theoretical Computations

Menon, Ernst Richter (from Daimler) and Antonis Andriotis (from IESL) have used state-of-the-art theoretical computations to demonstrate the feasibility of creating a one-atom thick, 2D material made from the aforementioned Earth-abundant elements, and the material could have possible applications beyond what graphene can currently do.

With all of incredible potential of graphene, it has one big drawback, it is not semiconductor.  This means it has very limited use in digital technology.

Graphene’s limited application in digital technology led scientists to continue searching for alternative materials.  This lead to the discover of transition-metal dichalcogenides (TMCDs) which can be used in the production of digital processors.  However, these materials are not abundant on earth.

“We know that silicon-based technology is reaching its limit because we are putting more and more components together and making electronic processors more and more compact,” Menon said. “But we know that this cannot go on indefinitely; we need smarter materials.”

The calculations  were made on computers at the UK Center for Computational Sciences.  The next step is to test them in the lab and actually make the material.

“We are very anxious for this to be made in the lab,” Menon said. “The ultimate test of any theory is experimental verification, so the sooner the better!”

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