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Imperfect Borders May Improve Graphene

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 03:35PM

Graphene is an atom-thick sheet of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal structure, similar in appearance to chicken wire. At least pristine graphene is while the real stuff tends to contain many imperfections across the sheet. Normally one would think that imperfections would negatively impact a material's properties, but researchers at Rice University have found that they may actually improve them.

One of the ways to grow graphene is with a process called chemical vapor deposition, which uses catalysts to trigger the growth of graphene, as carbon atoms fall on them. From each of these catalysts domains grow, which eventually meet up to form a single sheet. The borders of these domains tend not to align with each other, so while the hexagonal structure may exist within them, the edges may be comprised of rings containing five or seven atoms. According to the Rice researchers' new model, these grain boundaries may actually improve the sheet's mechanical properties, making them tougher, instead of introducing weak points. They may even create a band gap, a property of semiconductors that graphene lacks.

As the current work is all theoretical, it will have to be confirmed by experiments, which is harder than it may sound because the domain boundaries will have to be precisely misaligned with each other. It may not be easy, but the researchers already have an idea that may work.

Source: Rice University

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