In 2004, researchers at the University of Manchester successfully isolated graphene for the first time. Graphene is an atom-thick sheet of carbon with extraordinary properties including high conductivity and strength. These and more properties make it very desirable to many people for replacing materials currently used in electronics. The researchers at Manchester though are looking past using graphene as a replacement but as a means to whole new technologies, including the nanoscale electric transformer they recently constructed.
To build the transformer, multiple things had to be done, including isolating atomic layers of boron nitride, which served as the insulator in the device. To do this the researchers actually reapplied the same method used to isolate graphene eight years ago, and then with advanced nanotechnology, they assembled the transformer. Between each atomic layer of graphene, four atomic layers of boron nitride were placed and they locked together into a crystal similar to how Lego pieces attach.
While creating the nanoscale transformer is definitely a valuable accomplishment, the researchers are hoping this will spur further research into the area. While graphene could revolutionize electronics by simply replacing silicon, its greater potential could be unlocked by combining it, like this, with other atomic-thick materials to create new devices and materials with properties not present in Nature.