Flexible, translucent and ultrathin, layers of carbon atoms called graphene are also excellent electrical conductors that could find use in flexible computer displays, molecular electronics and new wireless communications. Making high-quality graphene sheets is usually a slow, painstaking process, but now several research groups have discovered ways to make patterned graphene circuits using techniques borrowed from microchip manufacturing, which can be scaled up for mass production.
Layers of graphene — carbon atoms arranged in a chicken-wire pattern one atom thick — can be manually peeled away from the graphite in pencils using adhesive tape. In contrast, the new technique causes carbon atoms in a vapor of hydrocarbons to settle onto a nickel surface and arrange into graphene’s characteristic pattern of hexagons.
Using standard chip-making techniques, circuit designs are etched into the nickel surface. As the graphene layers form, they take on the shape of the circuit template, researchers report in the Jan. 15 Nature.
“Finding a suitable material that’s transparent yet conducting and thin is a big deal,” says Philip Kim, coauthor of the study and a condensed matter physicist at Columbia University. Kim and his colleagues showed that the vapor-deposited graphene retains the excellent electrical properties of manually peeled graphene, even when bent on a flexible surface. — Patrick BarryCredit: IMAGE CREDIT: Ji Hye Hong
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