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Graphene Has A Flexible Future In Electronics

January 15, 2009

Researchers announce that an extraordinary new material called graphene may be able to produce bendable and transparent high-speed electronics.

Graphene’s amazing mechanical and electronic qualities are popular, but it is difficult to manufacture in high volumes. Graphene is composed of one-atom-thick layers of carbon atoms formed into hexagons. Centimeter wide transparent samples can be attached to any kind of surface and twisted without any damage.

These kinds of films may be employed in solar cells or any kind of see-through gadgetry, like crystal-clear, plastic displays.

First discovered in 2004, graphene is a close cousin of the carbon nanotube, which is in effect graphene rolled up.

Tiny, high-quality samples of graphene can be sourced by using sticky tape to simply pull them off graphite – the same stuff that is in a pencil lead.

Graphene samples are also very strong from the bond that carbon atoms create. The even cooler thing is that because they are so slender, the sheets are virtually clear.

While development of these kinds of films on surfaces has been identified for awhile, it was unknown if removing the films from the metal, if the graphene, once taken off, would have the same potential.

Byung Hee Hong at Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul, South Korea, and researchers have created a technique that creates films on very thin pieces of nickel.

By removing the nickel with dissolving chemicals, they were left with graphene films that could attach to a polymer called PET. The researchers say because the graphene films are so tough, they keep their electronic qualities even when bent.

The work corroborates the idea that this approach is the best path towards basically invisible electronics. In December, Jing Kong of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) released his successful account of creating graphene films by means of the nickel technique.

Andre Geim, whose faction first found graphene and established its future in electronics, is awed with the current flood of experiments.

“It’s a really important development,” said Geim. “It took five years from our demonstration of the beautiful properties of isolated graphene and now, at last, three groups have demonstrated that it’s possible.”

On the other hand, he notes that the samples created by way of the new technique still require some fine tuning.

“This technique shows the missing element for the whole story, from finding graphene to making real transistors because it shows that industrial scale production is possible,” Geim said.

Image Caption: Graphene is an atomic-scale chicken wire made of carbon atoms. Courtesy Wikipedia

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