Predicting and Controlling Graphene GrowthCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: September 11, 2012 06:15AM
Since its discovery, researchers across the planet have been studying graphene very closely. This atom-thick sheet of carbon has many extraordinary properties including high conductivity and strength. Despite the great interest though, some aspects of it have not yet been studied, such as how conditions affect its growth. Now researchers at Rice University have done that research and made some discoveries which could prove very important for future graphene-based technologies.
Because the interior area of graphene is made up of identical hexagons, it is the edge of the material which controls its properties, so it is the edge researchers must be able to work with. Though there are means to change the shape of the edge from a zigzag to an armchair pattern, or the skewed shape in between, it would be best if the graphene could just be grown that way, and thanks to careful observation and the use of theories concerning crystal formation, the researchers have found it is possible to make one edge type the preferred form when creating the graphene. This can be accomplished by using specific substrates (iron, cobalt, and nickel prefer the armchair shape while copper prefers zigzag edges) and by controlling the temperature the process occurs at.
This research did more than just give a means to efficiently control the kind of edge the graphene forms with, but also ways to improve the quality of the graphene and the speed of growth. If graphene is ever to be used in commercial technologies, we will need such improvements and controls.