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Decoupled graphene thanks to potassium bromide

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Friday, May 3, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, May 1, 2019

The use of potassium bromide in the production of graphene on a copper surface can lead to better results. When potassium bromide molecules arrange themselves between graphene and copper, it results in electronic decoupling. This alters the electrical properties of the graphene produced, bringing them closer to pure graphene, as reported by physicists from the universities of Basel, Modena and Munich in the journal ACS Nano.

Graphene consists of a layer of carbon atoms just one atom in thickness in a honeycomb pattern and is the subject of intensive worldwide research. Thanks to its high level of flexibility, combined with excellent stability and electrical conductivity, graphene has numerous promising applications – particularly in electronic components.

Molecules for decoupling

Mono-Layer Graphene is often produced via a chemical reaction on metallic surfaces in a process known as chemical vapor deposition. The graphene layer and the underlying metal are then electrically coupled, which diminishes some of the special electrical properties of graphene. For use in electronics, the graphene has to be transferred onto insulating substrates in a multistep process, during which there is a risk of damage and contamination.

In order to obtain defect-free, pure graphene, it is therefore preferable to decouple the graphene electrically from the metallic substrate and to develop a method that allows easier transfer without damage. The group led by Professor Ernst Meyer from the Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute (SNI) of the University of Basel is investigating ways of incorporating molecules between the graphene layer and the substrate after the chemical deposition process, which leads to this type of decoupling.

Altering electrical properties

In a study carried out by SNI doctoral student Mathias Schulzendorf, scientists have shown that potassium bromide is ideally suited to this. Potassium bromide is a soluble hydrogen bromide salt. Unlike the chemically similar compound sodium chloride, potassium bromide molecules arrange themselves between the graphene layer and the copper substrate. This was demonstrated by researchers in a variety of scanning probe microscopy studies.

Calculations performed by colleagues at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia (Italy) explain this phenomenon: It is more energetically advantageous for the system if potassium bromide molecules arrange themselves between the graphene and copper than if they are deposited on the graphene – as happens with sodium chloride.

The researchers have shown that the intermediate layer of potassium bromide alters the electrical properties of graphene – until they correspond to those expected for free graphene. “Our work has demonstrated that the graphene and the underlying metal can be decoupled using potassium bromide, bringing us a key step closer to producing clean and defect-free graphene,” says project supervisor Dr. Thilo Glatzel, who is a member of Meyer’s team.

Tags:  Ernst Meyer  Graphene  Thilo Glatzel  Universities of Basel. Swiss Nanoscience Institute 

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New graphene-based material developed for medical implants

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Thursday, May 2, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, May 1, 2019
A group of scientists have developed a new material for biomedical applications by combining a graphene-based nanomaterial with Hydroxyapatite (HAp), a commonly used bioceramic in implants.

In recent years, biometallic implants have become popular as a means to repair, restructure or replace damaged or diseased parts in orthopaedic and dental procedures. Metal parts also find use in devices such as pacemakers.

However, metallic implants face several limitations and are not a permanent solution. They react with body fluids and corrode, release wear and tear debris resulting in toxins and inflammation. They also have high thermal expansion and low compressive strength causing pain and are dense and may cause reactions.

On the other hand, bioceramics do not have these limitations. HAp specifically is osteoconductive, with a bone-like porous structure offering the required scaffold for tissue re-growth. However, it is brittle and lacks the mechanical strength of metals. The problem is overcome by combining it with nanoparticles of materials such as Zirconia.

In the new research, scientists have combined HAp with graphene nanoplatelets. “Previously reported studies have focused on only structural properties of such composites without throwing light on their biological properties. We have found that combining HAp with graphene nanomaterial enhances mechanical strength, provides better in-vivo imaging and biocompatibility without changing its basic bone-like properties,” explained Dr Gautam Chandkiram, the principal investigator at University of Lucknow, while speaking to India Science Wire.

Purification of the base ceramic material is a significant primary challenge in fabricating composites. According to scientists, in the current study, highly efficient biocompatible Hydroxyapatite was successfully prepared via a microwave irradiation technique and the consequent composites was synthesised using a simple solid-state reaction method.

The process involved mixing different concentrations of graphene nanoplatelet powders and drying, crushing, sieving and ball-milling the resulting slurry. The fine composite powder was further cold-compressed and sintered at 1200 degrees Celsius to achieve the desired density.

The scientists found that the composite had adequate interfacial area between the nanoparticles, with the graphene nanoplatelets well distributed into the hydroxyapatite matrix, while exhibiting high fracture resistance. Further, structural characterization, mechanical and load bearing tests showed that the 2D nature of graphene improves the load transfer efficiency significantly.

Researchers also examined cell viability of the composite by observing metabolic activity in specific cells using a procedure known as MTT assay. They used gut tissues of Drosophila larvae and primary osteoblast cells of a rat. “The overall cell viability studies demonstrated that there is no cytotoxic effect of the composites on any cell type,” explained Dr. Gautam.

Biomaterials also find use in drug delivery and bioimaging diagnosis. “Our research on the composite found that it displays a better fluorescence behaviour as compared to pure hydroxyapatite, indicating it has a great potential in bone engineering and bioimaging bio-imaging applications as well,” he added.

Tags:  2D Materials  Gautam Chandkiram  Graphene  Medical  nanomaterials  University of Lucknow 

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Thomas Swan Advanced Materials announce exciting Graphene collaboration with Graphene Composites Ltd pioneering advanced protection against knife and gun-crime

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Wednesday, May 1, 2019
Thomas Swan is proud to collaborate with nano-materials technology manufacturer Graphene Composites Ltd to provide the graphene solution in their GC Shield™ armour products. The product is the result of a lengthy development collaboration between the companies together with the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) using GNP-M grade graphene from Thomas Swan in the final application - an endorsement of the company’s ability to manufacture graphene in volume.

The GC Shield™ comes in a range of armour products providing lightweight, mobile protection to individuals and groups, plus effective protection for installation in large spaces. From a lightweight, flexible shield that is both bullet and stab-proof and can fit into a schoolbag, the GC Shield™ Plus has been successfully tested to stop multiple 7.62 x 51mm NATO M80 sniper bullets and AR-15 assault rifle M193 bullets fired at close range. The GC Shield™ Curtain can be deployed quickly, effectively and safely to provide protection in large spaces (e.g. school cafeterias, open plan areas, entrance halls).

Michael Edwards, head of the Advanced Materials Division at Thomas Swan said “It is always great to see an end-application that transfers into production demonstrating real-life applications for graphene – something that has been evasive in our market to date. As always there is a learning curve to be developed with a willing partner for a go-to market product, but we are always delighted to reach that point”.

Thomas Swan has a patented process to produce Multiple Layer (MLG) and Graphene Nanoplatelets (GNP) in volume at our facility in Consett, UK. Using our patented process of HighShear Liquid Phase Exfoliation licensed from Professor Jonathan Coleman’s work at Trinity College Dublin, we have further enhanced the process using our expertise at Thomas Swan, scaling-up to a 20T per year GNP capacity available today. We have the distinct advantage of being an established global player in the chemicals and materials business.

With manufacturing in the UK, a subsidiary company in the USA together with QA, logistics, regulatory and safety management, we are a leader in the field of 2D materials. Sandy Chen, CEO and founder of Graphene Composites said “Thomas Swan’s expertise in graphene manufacturing has been crucial to our success in developing our revolutionary armour products. Not only has the high quality and consistent manufacture made this possible but as a company, their willingness to collaborate closely with our Technical Team in our development processes has led to innovative and agile product design and development. This has enabled us to get our products market-ready much more quickly”.

Tags:  2D materials  Graphene  Graphene Composites  Jonathan Coleman  Michael Edwards  nanomaterials  Sandy Chen  Thomas Swan 

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Future Surrey research stars backed with grants totaling £1 million by EPSRC

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Tuesday, April 30, 2019
Updated: Friday, April 26, 2019

Surrey University has recently seen four successful New Investigator Award applications - including projects that look at new techniques to better understand the movements of plastics in our oceans, an investigation into the next generation of dental materials, a project looking to develop a game-changing carbon capture material and security protocols for future communications networks.

Predicting the fate of our plastics

Dr Thomas Bond, Lecturer from Surrey’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, was granted over £260,000 to develop his research that will better predict the location of plastic litter in the environment. It is not known where 99 percent of the ocean’s plastic litter is, making it difficult to deal with this catastrophic environmental problem. Dr Bond will be looking at how different commonly used plastics behave and he will be using several experimental tests to develop methods that predict the fate of plastics polluting our waters.

Dr Bond said: “The amount of plastic litter in the environment is growing rapidly. Its presence poses a severe threat to marine and freshwater life. However, at the heart of our knowledge of plastic litter lies a black hole. I hope this project will give us a clearer picture of what happens to plastic waste in the environment. We will also investigate whether promoting sustainable types of plastics may obviate the problem of plastic litter in the environment.”

Next generation of dental material

Dr Tan Sui, Lecturer in Materials Engineering from the Department of Mechanical Engineering Sciences, was given just over £250,000 to investigate the next generation of dental materials that could be key to improving oral restorative surgeries. Together with the Universities of Bristol and Birmingham, the National Physical Laboratory and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, Dr Sui will look to create a material that acts and performs like natural dental materials, with improved longevity.

Dr Tan Sui said: “Thanks to the advances of science and medicine we are all living longer but, unfortunately, our teeth are not faring so well. We hope this project will give us a deep understanding of novel dental materials, especially zirconia-based composites, with bioinspired functionally graded and textured microstructures -- and of how through refinement they may be durable enough to become the optimal dental restorative products.”

Carbon capture

Dr Marco Sacchi, Royal Society University Research Fellow, was awarded £230,000 to develop a computational research project that will reduce the cost and increase the efficiency of materials for carbon capture. In his project, Dr Sacchi will use Graphene, a newly discovered “miracle” material that has promising physical and thermal properties. The project will see Dr Sacchi join forces with a multidisciplinary team of chemists, nanotechnologists and physicists in industry and academia to test Graphene’s scientific boundaries and whether it can be used to entrap and treat greenhouse gases.

Dr Sacchi said: “Climate change is the biggest challenge that faces our planet today. It is an incredibly complex problem that requires teamwork from across the scientific spectrum to find sustainable solutions. We believe that by combining theoretical modelling with experimental validation, material testing and applied catalysis we will be able test the boundaries of Graphene and maximise its societal impact.”

Cybersecurity

Dr Ioana Boureanu, Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science and Surrey Centre for Cyber Security, was awarded just under £300,000 for the Automatic Verification of Complex Privacy Requirements in Unbounded-Size Secure Systems (AutoPaSS) project. AutoPaSS will develop formal methods and software-tools needed to analyse security and, especially, privacy in modern communications systems. AutoPaSS is in collaboration with industrial partners Thales and Vector GB Ltd.

Dr Boureanu said: “Today's devices execute concurrently in numerous and hyper-connected ways. So, we need reliable system-analysis techniques that capture not only cybersecurity properties but also modern connectivity. Importantly, this becomes an even bigger challenge if one needs to faithfully analyse rich privacy properties, such as anonymity and users’ untraceability. AutoPaSS will address this gap in the formal verification of 2020s' secure systems such as those driven by Internet of Things and connected, smart cars.”

Professor David Sampson, Vice-Provost, Research and Innovation, said: “These fantastic projects show that the University of Surrey is generating a wealth of bold, novel and innovative research ideas that have the potential to change everyday lives and the health of the planet. I want to congratulate our up-and-coming academics on their first steps into leading a research project. As a University, we are committed to supporting them and we wish them every success in these first steps towards an independent research career.”

Tags:  David Sampson  Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council  Graphene  Ioana Boureanu  Marco Sacchi  Plastics  Tan Sui  Thomas Bond  University of Surrey 

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New Technique Produces Longer-lasting Lithium Batteries

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Monday, April 29, 2019
Updated: Friday, April 26, 2019
The grand challenge to improve energy storage and increase battery life, while ensuring safe operation, is becoming evermore critical as we become increasingly reliant on this energy source for everything from portable devices to electric vehicles. A Columbia Engineering team led by Yuan Yang, assistant professor of materials science and engineering, announced that they have developed a new method for safely prolonging battery life by inserting a nano-coating of boron nitride (BN) to stabilize solid electrolytes in lithium metal batteries. Their findings are outlined in a new study published by Joule.

While conventional lithium ion (Li-ion) batteries are currently widely used in daily life, they have low energy density, resulting in shorter battery life, and, because of the highly flammable liquid electrolyte inside them, they can short out and even catch fire. Energy density could be improved by using lithium metal to replace the graphite anode used in Li-ion batteries: lithium metal’s theoretical capacity for the amount of charge it can deliver is almost 10 times higher than that of graphite. But during lithium plating, dendrites often form and, if they penetrate the membrane separator in the middle of the battery, they can create short-circuits, raising concerns about battery safety.

“We decided to focus on solid, ceramic electrolytes. They show great promise in improving both safety and energy density, as compared with conventional, flammable electrolytes in Li-ion batteries,” says Yang. “We are particularly interested in rechargeable solid-state lithium batteries because they are promising candidates for next-generation energy storage.”

Most solid electrolytes are ceramic, and therefore non-flammable, eliminating safety concerns. In addition, solid ceramic electrolytes have a high mechanical strength that can actually suppress lithium dendrite growth, making lithium metal a coating option for battery anodes. However, most solid electrolytes are unstable against Li—they can be easily corroded by lithium metal and cannot be used in batteries.

“Lithium metal is indispensable for enhancing energy density and so it’s critical that we be able to use it as the anode for solid electrolytes,” says Qian Cheng, the paper’s lead author and a postdoctoral research scientist in the department of applied physics and applied mathematics who works in Yang's group. “To adapt these unstable solid electrolytes for real-life applications, we needed to develop a chemically and mechanically stable interface to protect these solid electrolytes against the lithium anode. It is essential that the interface not only be highly electronically insulating, but also ionically conducting in order to transport lithium ions. Plus, this interface has to be super-thin to avoid lowering the energy density of batteries.”

To address these challenges, the team worked with colleagues at Brookhaven National Lab and the City University of New York. They deposited 5~10 nm boron nitride (BN) nano-film as a protective layer to isolate the electrical contact between lithium metal and the ionic conductor (the solid electrolyte), along with a trace quantity of polymer or liquid electrolyte to infiltrate the electrode/electrolyte interface. They selected BN as a protective layer because it is chemically and mechanically stable with lithium metal, providing a high degree of electronic insulation. They designed the BN layer to have intrinsic defects, through which lithium ions can pass through, allowing it to serve as an excellent separator. In addition, BN can be readily prepared by chemical vapor deposition to form large-scale (~dm level), atomically thin scale (~nm level), and continuous films.

“While earlier studies used polymeric protection layers as thick as 200 µm, our BN protective film, at only 5~10 nm thick, is record-thin—at the limit of such protection layers—without lowering the energy density of batteries,” Cheng says. “It’s the perfect material to function as a barrier that prevents the invasion of lithium metal to solid electrolyte. Like a bullet-proof vest, we’ve developed a lithium-metal-proof ‘vest’ for unstable solid electrolytes and, with that innovation, achieved long-cycling lifetime lithium metal batteries.”

The researchers are now extending their method to a broad range of unstable solid electrolytes and further optimizing the interface. They expect to fabricate solid-state batteries with high performance and long-cycle lifetimes.
 

Tags:  Batteries  Boron Nitride  Columbia Engineering  Graphene  Li-Ion batteries  Qian Cheng  Yuan Yang 

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Modified 'white graphene' for eco-friendly energy

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Wednesday, April 24, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Scientists from TPU, Germany, and the United States have found a new way to functionalize a dielectric, otherwise known as 'white graphene', i.e. hexagonal boron nitride (hBN), without destroying it or changing its properties. Thanks to the new method, the researchers synthesized a 'polymer nano carpet' with strong covalent bond on the samples.

Prof Raul Rodriguez from the TPU Research School of Chemistry & Applied Biomedical Sciences explains:

'For the first time, we have managed to covalently functionalize hexagonal boron nitride without strong chemical compositions and the introduction of new defects into the material. In fact, earlier approaches had resulted in a different material with altered properties, i.e. hydrolyzed boron nitride. In our turn, we used nanodefects existing in the material without increasing their number, and eco-friendly photopolymerization.'

One of the promising options for using the new material, according to researchers, is catalysts for splitting water in hydrogen and oxygen. With this in view, 'polymer carpets' functioned as carriers of active substances, i.e. matrices. Nickel nanoparticles were integrated into the matrix. Catalysts obtained were used for electrocatalysis. Studies showed that they could be successfully used as an alternative to expensive platinum or gold.

'One of the important challenges in catalysis is forcing the starting material to reach active centers of the catalyst. 'Polymer carpets' form a 3D structure that helps to increase the area of contact of the active centers of the catalyst with water and makes hydrogen acquisition more efficient. It is very promising for the production of environmentally friendly hydrogen fuel,' - says the scientist.

Boron nitride is a binary compound of boron and nitrogen. While, hexagonal boron nitride or 'white graphene' is a white talc-like powder with hexagonal, graphene-like lattice. It is resistant to high temperatures and chemical substances, nontoxic, has a very low coefficient of friction, and functions both as a perfect dielectric and as a good heat conductor. Boron-nitride materials are widely used in the reactions of industrial organic synthesis, in the cracking of oil, for the manufacturing of products of high-temperature technology, the production of semiconductors, means for extinguishing fires, and so on.

Previously, a number of studies were devoted to functionalization of hexagonal boron nitride. Typically, this process uses strong chemical oxidants that not only destroy the material but also significantly change its properties. The method, which TPU scientists and their foreign colleagues use, allows them to avoid this.

'Studies have shown that we obtained homogenous and durable 'polymer carpets' which can be removed from the supporting substrate and used separately. What is more, this is a fairly universal technology since for functionalization we used different monomers which allow obtaining materials with properties optimal for use in various devices,' - says Prof Raul Rodriguez.

Tags:  2D materials  Graphene  Hexagonal Boron Nitride  Raul Rodriguez  TPU Germany 

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Building a Printing Press for New Quantum Materials

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Wednesday, April 24, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Checking out a stack of books from the library is as simple as searching the library’s catalog and using unique call numbers to pull each book from their shelf locations. Using a similar principle, scientists at the Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN)—a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science User Facility at Brookhaven National Laboratory—are teaming with Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to create a first-of-its-kind automated system to catalog atomically thin two-dimensional (2-D) materials and stack them into layered structures. Called the Quantum Material Press, or QPress, this system will accelerate the discovery of next-generation materials for the emerging field of quantum information science (QIS).

Structures obtained by stacking single atomic layers (“flakes”) peeled from different parent bulk crystals are of interest because of the exotic electronic, magnetic, and optical properties that emerge at such small (quantum) size scales. However, flake exfoliation is currently a manual process that yields a variety of flake sizes, shapes, orientations, and number of layers. Scientists use optical microscopes at high magnification to manually hunt through thousands of flakes to find the desired ones, and this search can sometimes take days or even a week, and is prone to human error.

Once high-quality 2-D flakes from different crystals have been located and their properties characterized, they can be assembled in the desired order to create the layered structures. Stacking is very time-intensive, often taking longer than a month to assemble a single layered structure. To determine whether the generated structures are optimal for QIS applications—ranging from computing and encryption to sensing and communications—scientists then need to characterize the structures’ properties.

“In talking to our university collaborators at Harvard and MIT who synthesize and study these layered heterostructures, we learned that while bits of automation exist—such as software to locate the flakes and joysticks to manipulate the flakes—there is no fully automated solution,” said CFN Director Charles Black, the administrative lead on the QPress project.

The idea for the QPress was conceived in early 2018 by Professor Amir Yacoby of the Department of Physics at Harvard. The concept was then refined through a collaboration between Yacoby; Black and Kevin Yager, leader of the CFN Electronic Nanomaterials Group; Philip Kim, also of Harvard’s Department of Physics; and Pablo Jarillo-Herrero and Joseph Checkelsky, both of the Department of Physics at MIT. 

According to Black, the unique CFN role was clear: “We realized that building a robot that can enable the design, synthesis, and testing of quantum materials is extremely well-matched to the skills and expertise of scientists at the CFN. As a user facility, CFN is meant to be a resource for the scientific community, and QIS is one of our growth areas for which we’re expanding our capabilities, scientific programs, and staff.”

Graphene sparks 2-D materials research
The interest in 2-D materials dates back to 2004, when scientists at the University of Manchester isolated the world’s first 2-D material, graphene—a single layer of carbon atoms. They used a surprisingly basic technique in which they placed a piece of graphite (the core material of pencils) on Scotch tape, repeatedly folding the tape in half and peeling it apart to extract ever-thinner flakes. Then, they rubbed the tape on a flat surface to transfer the flakes. Under an optical microscope, the one-atom-thick flakes can be located by their reflectivity, appearing as very faint spots. Recognized with a Nobel Prize in 2010, the discovery of graphene and its unusual properties—including its remarkable mechanical strength and electrical and thermal conductivity—has prompted scientists to explore other 2-D materials.

Many labs continue to use this laborious approach to make and find 2-D flakes. While the approach has enabled scientists to perform various measurements on graphene, hundreds of other crystals—including magnets, superconductors, and semiconductors—can be exfoliated in the same way as graphite. Moreover, different 2-D flakes can be stacked to build materials that have never existed before. Scientists have very recently discovered that the properties of these stacked structures depend not only on the order of the layers but also on the relative angle between the atoms in the layers. For example, a material can be tuned from a metallic to an insulating state simply by controlling this angle. Given the wide variety of samples that scientists would like to explore and the error-prone and time-consuming nature of manual synthesis methods, automated approaches are greatly needed.

“Ultimately, we would like to develop a robot that delivers a stacked structure based on the 2-D flake sequences and crystal orientations that scientists select through a web interface to the machine,” said Black. “If successful, the QPress would enable scientists to spend their time and energy studying materials, rather than making them.”

A modular approach
In September 2018, further development of the QPress was awarded funding by the DOE, with a two-part approach. One award was for QPress hardware development at Brookhaven, led by Black; Yager; CFN scientists Gregory Doerk, Aaron Stein, and Jerzy Sadowski; and CFN scientific associate Young Jae Shin. The other award was for a coordinated research project led by Yacoby, Kim, Jarillo-Herrero, and Checkelsky. The Harvard and MIT physicists will use the QPress to study exotic forms of superconductivity—the ability of certain materials to conduct electricity without energy loss at very low temperatures—that exist at the interface between a superconductor and magnet. Some scientists believe that such exotic states of matter are key to advancing quantum computing, which is expected to surpass the capabilities of even today’s most powerful supercomputing.

 A fully integrated automated machine consisting of an exfoliator, a cataloger, a library, a stacker, and a characterizer is expected in three years. However, these modules will come online in stages to enable the use of QPress early on.   

The team has already made some progress. They built a prototype exfoliator that mimics the action of a human peeling flakes from a graphite crystal. The exfoliator presses a polymer stamp into a bulk parent crystal and transfers the exfoliated flakes by pressing them onto a substrate. In their first set of experiments, the team investigated how changing various parameters—stamping pressure, pressing time, number of repeated presses, angle of pressing, and lateral force applied during transfer—impact the process.

“One of the advantages of using a robot is that, unlike a human, it reproduces the same motions every time, and we can optimize these motions to generate lots of very thin large flakes,” explained Yager. “Thus, the exfoliator will improve both the quality and quantity of 2-D flakes peeled from parent crystals by refining the speed, precision, and repeatability of the process.”

In collaboration with Stony Brook University assistant professor Minh Hoai Nguyen of the Department of Computer Science and PhD student Boyu Wang of the Computer Vision Lab, the scientists are also building a flake cataloger. Through image-analysis software, the cataloger scans a substrate and records the locations of exfoliated flakes and their properties.

“The flakes that scientists are interested in are thin and thus faint, so manual visual inspection is a laborious and error-prone process,” said Nguyen. “We are using state-of-the-art computer vision and deep learning techniques to develop software that can automate this process with higher accuracy.”

“Our collaborators have said that a system capable of mapping their sample of flakes and showing them where the “good” flakes are located—as determined by parameters they define—would be immensely helpful for them,” said Yager. “We now have this capability and would like to put it to use.”

Eventually, the team plans to store a large set of different catalogued flakes on shelves, similar to books in a library. Scientists could then access this materials library to select the flakes they want to use, and the QPress would retrieve them.

According to Black, the biggest challenge will be the construction of the stacker—the module that retrieves samples from the library, “drives” to the locations where the selected flakes reside, and picks the flakes up and places them in a repetitive process to build stacks according to the assembly instructions that scientists program into the machine. Ultimately, the scientists would like the stacker to assemble the layered structures not only faster but also more accurately than manual methods.

The final module of the robot will be a material characterizer, which will provide real-time feedback throughout the entire synthesis process. For example, the characterizer will identify the crystal structure and orientation of exfoliated flakes and layered structures through low-energy electron diffraction (LEED)—a technique in which a beam of low-energy electrons is directed toward the surface of a sample to produce a diffraction pattern characteristic of the surface geometry.

“There are many steps to delivering a fully automated solution,” said Black. “We intend to implement QPress capabilities as they become available to maximize benefit to the QIS community.”

Tags:  2D materials  Amir Yacoby  Center for Functional Nanomaterials  Charles Black  Graphene  Kevin Yager 

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From 2D to 1D: Atomically quasi '1D' wires using a carbon nanotube template

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Wednesday, April 24, 2019
Updated: Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Researchers from Tokyo Metropolitan University have used carbon nanotube templates to produce nanowires of transition metal monochalcogenide (TMM), which are only 3 atoms wide in diameter. These are 50 times longer than previous attempts and can be studied in isolation, preserving the properties of atomically quasi "1D" objects. The team saw that single wires twist when perturbed, suggesting that isolated nanowires have unique mechanical properties which might be applied to switching in nanoelectronics.

Two-dimensional materials have gone from theoretical curiosity to real-life application in the span of less than two decades; the most well-known example of these, graphene, consists of well-ordered sheets of carbon atoms. Though we are far from leveraging the full potential of graphene, its remarkable electrical and thermal conductivity, optical properties and mechanical resilience have already led to a wide range of industrial applications. Examples include energy storage solutions, biosensing, and even substrates for artificial tissue.

Yet, despite the successful transition from 3D to 2D, the barrier separating 2D and 1D has been significantly more challenging to overcome. A class of materials known as transition metal monochalcogenides (TMMs, transition metal + group 16 element) have received particular interest as a potential nanowire in precision nanoelectronics. Theoretical studies have existed for over 30 years, and preliminary experimental studies have also succeeded in making small quantities of nanowire, but these were usually bundled, too short, mixed with bulk material or simply low yield, particularly when precision techniques were involved e.g. lithography. The bundling was particularly problematic; forces known as van der Waals forces would force the wires to aggregate, effectively masking all the unique properties of 1D wires that one might want to access and apply.

Now, a team led by Assistant Professor Yusuke Nakanishi from Tokyo Metropolitan University has succeeded in producing bulk quantities of well-isolated single nanowires of TMM. They used tiny, open-ended rolls of single-layered carbon, or carbon nanotubes (CNTs), to template the assembly and reaction of molybdenum and tellurium into wires from a vapor. They succeeded in producing single isolated wires of TMM, which were only 3-atoms thick and fifty times longer than those made using existing methods. These nanometer-sized CNT "test tubes" were also shown to be not chemically bound to the wires, effectively preserving the properties expected from isolated TMM wires. Importantly, they effectively "protected" the wires from each other, allowing for unprecedented access to how these 1D objects behave in isolation.

While imaging these objects using transmission electron microscopy (TEM), the team found that these wires exhibited a unique twisting effect when exposed to an electron beam. Such behavior has never been seen before and is expected to be unique to isolated wires. The transition from a straight to twisted structure may offer a novel switching mechanism when the material is incorporated into microscopic circuits. The team hope the ability to make well-isolated 1D nanowires might significantly expand our understanding of the properties and mechanisms behind the function of 1D materials.

Tags:  2D materials  Carbon Nanotubes  Graphene  nanoelectronics  Tokyo Metropolitan University  Yusuke Nakanishi 

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Graphene gives a tremendous boost to future terahertz cameras

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Updated: Saturday, April 20, 2019
Scientists have developed a novel graphene-enabled photodetector that operates at room temperature, is highly sensitive, very fast, has a wide dynamic range and covers a broad range of THz frequencies.

Detecting terahertz (THz) light is extremely useful for two main reasons:

First, THz technology is becoming a key element in applications regarding security (such as airport scanners), wireless data communication, and quality control, to mention just a few. However, current THz detectors have shown strong limitations in terms of simultaneously meeting the requirements for sensitivity, speed, spectral range, being able to operate at room temperature, etc.

Second, it is a very safe type of radiation due to its low-energy photons, with more than a hundred times less energy than that of photons in the visible light range.

Many graphene-based applications are expected to emerge from its use as material for detecting light. Graphene has the particularity of not having a bandgap, as compared to standard materials used for photodetection, such as silicon. The bandgap in silicon causes incident light with wavelengths longer than one micron to not be absorbed and thus not detected. In contrast, for graphene, even terahertz light with a wavelength of hundreds of microns can be absorbed and detected. Whereas THz detectors based on graphene have shown promising results so far, none of the detectors so far could beat commercially available detectors in terms of speed and sensitivity.

In a recent study, ICFO researchers Sebastian Castilla and Dr. Bernat Terres, led by ICREA Prof. at ICFO Frank Koppens and former ICFO scientist Dr. Klaas-Jan Tielrooij (now Junior Group Leader at ICN2), in collaboration with scientists from CIC NanoGUNE, NEST (CNR), Nanjing University, Donostia International Physics Center, University of Ioannina and the National Institute for Material Sciences, have been able to overcome these challenges. They have developed a novel graphene-enabled photodetector that operates at room temperature, and is highly sensitive, very fast, has a wide dynamic range and covers a broad range of THz frequencies.

In their experiment, the scientists were able to optimize the photoresponse mechanism of a THz photodetector using the following approach. They integrated a dipole antenna into the detector to concentrate the incident THz light around the antenna gap region. By fabricating a very small (100 nm, about one thousand times smaller than the thickness of a hair) antenna gap, they were able to obtain a great intensity concentration of THz incident light in the photoactive region of the graphene channel. They observed that the light absorbed by the graphene creates hot carriers at a pn-junction in graphene; subsequently, the unequal Seebeck coefficients in the p- and n-regions produce a local voltage and a current through the device generating a very large photoresponse and, thus, leading to a very high sensitivity, high speed response detector, with a wide dynamic range and a broad spectral coverage.

The results of this study open a pathway towards the development a fully digital low-cost camera system. This could be as cheap as the camera inside the smartphone, since such a detector has proven to have a very low power consumption and is fully compatible with CMOS technology.

Tags:  Bernat Terres  CIC NanoGUNE  Donostia International Physics Center  Frank Koppens  Graphene  ICERA  ICFO  Klaas-Jan Tielrooij  Nanjing University  National Institute for Material Sciences  photodetectors  Sebastian Castilla  University of Ioannina 

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Light-driven artificial muscle made with nanomaterials

Posted By Graphene Council, The Graphene Council, Monday, April 22, 2019
Updated: Saturday, April 20, 2019

Reporting their findings in Advanced Materials ("Plasmonic-Assisted Graphene Oxide Artificial Muscles"), researchers in China have developed a plasmonic-assisted holistic artificial muscle that can independently act as a fully functional motor system without assembling or joints.

The artificial muscle's low-cost integrated design consists of a composite layer uniform bilayer configuration made of gold nanorods embedded in graphene oxide or reduced graphene oxide and a thermally expansive polymer layer (PMMA).

The gold nanorods of varying aspect ratios endow the graphene nanocomposites with tunable wavelength response. This enables the fabrication of a light-sensitive artificial muscle that can perform complex limb-like motions without joints.

Combining the synergistic effect of the gold nanorods' high plasmonic property and wavelength selectivity with graphene's good flexibility and thermal conductivity, the artificial muscle can implement full-function motility without further integration, which is reconfigurable through wavelength-sensitive light activation.

Upon photothermal heating, the mismatch between the deformations of two layers leads to significant bending, replicating the muscle-like contraction from one layer and expansion from the other.

To demonstrate the light-addressable manipulation of complicated multiped robot, the team developed a holistic spider robot.

They patterned each leg of the spider with three nodes (see figure g above). Despite that the spider has been patterned on 2D film, it can deform into 3D structures under light irradiation due to the bending of its legs.

When the laser beam irradiates the legs one by one, the legs bend one after another, which induced the displacement of the gravity center of the spider accordingly. In this way, the researchers could control the spider robot to lean forward and move toward the right direction at an average speed of 2.5 mm per second.

The authors conclude that their work bridges the gap between ideal request and realistic restrictions of biomimetic motor systems, and decreases the amount of discrete parts, the number of postprocessing steps, and the fabrication time, and thereby offers new opportunities for biological aid and for biomimetic mini robots to be remotely operated.

Tags:  artificial muscle  Graphene  graphene oxide  nanocomposites 

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