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Move Over Graphene; MIT-Harvard Researchers Develop New 2-D Material

May 03, 2014 09:21 AM EDT
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A diagram of the molecular structure of the new material shows how it naturally forms a hexagonal lattice structure, and its two-dimensional layers naturally arrange themselves so that the openings in the hexagons are all perfectly aligned.
(Photo : Mircea Dincă and team/ Massachusetts Institute of Technology )

MIT and Harvard University researchers say that they have found a new self-assembling, two-dimensional material, which is better than graphene.

Graphene is considered  a wonder material due to its 2 D structure, toughness and thermal conductivity. However, it lacks a property called as bandgap, which is important in the construction of transistors.

Scientists have pitched in new players in the field of 2-D research such as molybdenum disulfide, germanium and boron nitride to advance electronic circuit design.

MIT and Harvard University researchers have now found a material that has all properties of graphene along with a natural bandgap. The new material is a combination of nickel and an organic compound called HITP (2,3,6,7,10,11-hexaiminotriphenylene).

What's more is that the new material called Ni3(HITP) can self assemble. According to researchers, the constituents in the compound use a "bottom up" approach to build the material. Adjusting the levels of ingredients could lead to easier manufacture processes when compared to the production of other 2 D materials.

The new material also shows that there could be an entire family of compounds that can be built using metals or organic compounds. These new synthetic materials could be used in solar cells and supercapacitors, device that can store electrical energy.

Mircea Dincă, lead author of the study, said that graphene has excellent thermal conductivity. However, it is not a natural semiconductor and lacks band-gaps. Hence, researchers add other molecules to modify its structure. But, addition of other molecules leads to loss of the desired characterises of graphene.

Related research has shown that graphene is only as strong as its weakest link and that impurities in the material could make it brittle.

MIT-Harvard researchers found that Ni3(HITP) has the hexagonal structure of graphene. The openings in the center of the hexagons are all of the same size, measuring 2 nanometers (billionths of a meter) across, according to a statement by MIT.

The team conducted experiments on bulk form of the material to test its electrical conductivity. "There's every reason to believe that the properties of the particles are worse than those of a sheet," Dincă said in a news release, "But they're still impressive."

The study was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Center for Excitonics at MIT and is published in the  Journal of the American Chemical Society. Read the paper, here

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