Bringing us one step closer to the advancement of digital technology, a physicist has gone the extra mile and discovered a new one atom-thick flat material that could replace the highly popular graphene material.
Madhu Menon, a physicist at the University of Kentucky for Computational Sciences, in collaboration with scientists from Daimler in Germany and the Institute for Electronic Structure and Laser in Greece, worked on the perfect combination for a month, by going beyond the first row of the periodic table and into the second row by taking silicon and seeing if it would combine with other elements in the first row, such as boron and nitrogen.
“People have tried to improve on graphene by substituting carbon with other elements. So we tried to look at what happens when you substitute some of the carbon items with silicon,” Menon told R&D Magazine in a telephone interview.
According to Physical Review B, Rapid Communications, the new material is made up of silicon, boron and nitrogen—all light inexpensive and earth abundant elements—and stable, something that other graphene alternatives lack.
“One of the problems with graphene is that it’s all carbon. It’s metallic so you cannot really use it in electronics, which require a civic connector,” Menon added. “This new material has some advantages, it’s metallic as well but has silicon atoms in it, so it can attach to other items, such as hydrogen, so it makes it easier to integrate with existing silicon technology instead of making a drastic change with new material.”
Additionally, with graphene it’s not easy to put things on top for absorption, because carbon is already “happily bonded” to other carbons, so it doesn’t have any other bonding. But silicon is open to more bonding,” according to the physicist.
The research team composed of Menon, Ernst Richter from Daimler, and Antonis Andriotis from IESL used simulations to see if the bonds would break, so they heated the new material up to 1,000-degree Celsius and it still did not break. They’ve succeeded in demonstrating that by combining three elements, it’s possible to obtain a one atom-thick, truly 2D material with properties that could be fine-tuned to suit various applications beyond what is possible with graphene.
Also, in addition to creating an electronic band gap, attachment of other elements can also be used to selectively change the band gap values—a key advantage over graphene.
The new 2D material discovery would mainly aid in the electronic industry and hydrogen storage, such as better longevity for batteries.
The bulk of the theoretical calculations required were performed on the computers at the UK Center for Computational Sciences with collaborators Richter and Andriotis directly accessing them through fast networks. Now the team is working with Mahendra Sunkara of the Conn Center for Renewable Energy Research at University of Louisville to create the material in the lab.
“We are very anxious for this to be made in the lab,” Menon concluded in a prepared statement. “The ultimate test of any theory is experimental verification, so the sooner the better.”
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