Using Graphene to Model Relativistic Phenomena
Researchers have found another use for the wonder material, graphene. This atom-thick sheet of carbon has a curious interplay between its conduction electrons and atoms which results in allowing the electrons to travel as though they were massless. This means the electrons can reach speeds so fast that relativity dominates them and, as reported by Springer, researchers are now using this to study still faster cosmic rays.
Cosmic rays are these essentially omnipresent particles that stream in from outer space and strike our atmosphere with energy exceeding that achievable at the Large Hadron Collider. These particles come from a variety of sources including the Sun and the remnants of novas and supernovas from throughout the Universe. While the particles travel at nearly the speed of light, they can still display random or Brownian motion, which is what the researchers were curious about. By careful manipulation of a graphene chip, the researchers were able to model the motion of the cosmic rays with electrons on the graphene, even though they travel much slower than the cosmic rays.
Next the researchers want to further examine how temperature affects electron transport over graphene. If they can find ways to exercise even greater control over the electrons, they could make graphene into a mini-lab for studying cosmic rays.