Graphene, the one-atom thick allotrope of carbon, holds the key to fabricating the next generation of super-strong and highly conductive materials, however, the challenge to it is the integration of graphene with other elements in order to actualize its wondrous properties.
And now, a new method developed by scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago, makes it possible to combine nanomaterials with graphene without disrupting the geometry it is well-known for. But how does that really matter? Let’s see.
The Problem with Graphene
As we know, graphene is a continuous network of interconnected hexagons that have a carbon atom at each joint. This web of carbon hexagons is as thick as the atom itself and exists in a single plane. For the purpose of affixing more elements to this kind of structure, some kind of bond has to be setup between graphene and the element being considered.
Every time you try to do this, one of the carbon-carbon connections opens up, so as to accommodate the new member to this family which in-turn spoils the planar geometry of graphene. The internal structure of graphene starts to occupy 3D space instead of maintaining the 2D structure it is characterized with, letting go of its unique properties side by side.
In scientific terms, the trigonal-planar sp2 hybridization of carbon atoms changes to tetrahedral sp3 while creating nucleation sites for nanoparticles.
How Does The New Method Solve This?
The new method injects a metal compound to all the carbon atoms of a hexagonal ring (also called benzenoid ring) which enables affixation of other elements to graphene without disturbing its planar geometry.
The bond formed between the metal compound and carbon atoms is delocalized and therefore doesn’t affect the electronic properties of graphene at all.
The metal compound used in the research was Chromium Carbonyl [Cr(CO)3 ] and Silver Nanoparticles (AgNPs) were successfully added to graphene, hence finding a new way of doing the same.
Vikas Berry, associate professor and department head of chemical engineering says, “The distinction of our chemistry will enable integration of graphene with almost anything, while retaining its properties.”
Now that such a method has been devised, the exciting vision of future that graphene promises can finally march towards realization. This specific research aims to make graphene usable for electronics and it showed that Graphene-Silicon solar panels got an 11-fold (nearly) boost in their power conversion efficiency when Silver Nanoparticles were added to them using this method.
Graphene is a suitable candidate for ultra-fast circuits for mobile phones, satellite equipment and everything that uses capacitors/amplifiers while being much lighter than other substances. A square meter of graphene weighs only 0.77 milligrams. It also supposedly exhibits a much greater mechanical strength, about 130 GPa of tensile strength. (Steel approximately has a tensile strength of 0.4 GPa)
A study showed that graphene can transmit high-frequency electrical signals with nearly no energy loss, which is deemed to match the efficiency of Superconductors. Our world will truly be revolutionized when superconductors become a reality.
Further, graphene finds applications in opto-electronics, ultra-sensitive bio-sensors, cheaper photovoltaic panels (as shown in the research), highly efficient energy storage and more. The research will pave the way for that “more” to come.
|Graphenea – Uses & Applications|
|Graphenea – Properties|