Graphene, our favorite atom thick material, is back again with new and curious properties. Already we know it conducts electricity very well but at the cost of a band gap, a needed characteristic for electronics. Making pure graphene sheets though can be very difficult. Researchers at EMPA, Switzerland recently found a way to make high quality graphene, but not as sheets or ribbons. The process creates a structure which is not perfectly straight, but will zigzag.
This new structure sparked the interest of researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Often in nature different structures of a material can greatly change its characteristics. Graphene is a perfect example of this as it, graphite, and diamond are all forms of carbon but with such different structures to make one form more valuable than the others. Using a supercomputer to analyze the different nanowiggle structures (such as armchair, armchair/zigzag, zigzag, and zigzag/armchair) the researchers found the different structures have very different properties, including different band gaps.
Many scientists are already interested in using graphene to replace silicon in computers, but the absence of a band gap and mass production issues may have kept their work in a lab for some time. This research gives scientists the ability to not only produce graphene easily but to design its band gap to what they want. The researchers also found the nanowiggles can be used to control the magnetic properties of graphene, which will also prove useful in technological use.