12 July 2012

Graphene holes found to be self repairing

Researchers have found that holes in graphene can repair themselves when exposed to loose carbon atoms, opening up the possibly of new tailoring approaches for the material.

The team at the University of Manchester, including graphene's co-discoverer Professor Konstantin Novoselov, accidentally made the discovery while experimenting with ways to apply metal strips to the material to exploit its electronic properties. The process often resulted in holes being formed in the atom thick sheets, but nearby carbon atoms seemed to snap into place to fill them.

The researchers then etched nanoholes into the sheets under an electron beam at room temperature and used scanning transmission electron microscopy to study the healing process. They found hydrocarbons had a similar effect but resulted in irregular formations in the sheet. Metal atoms also seemed to be attracted to the holes.

However, pure carbon atoms displace the metal atoms and create a perfect repair. The team observed that provided a reservoir of loose carbon atoms is readily available nearby, holes in graphene can be refilled with either non hexagonal near amorphous or perfectly hexagonal two dimensional structures.

First discovered at the University of Manchester by Professors Novoselov and Andre Geim in 2010, graphene is the thinnest, strongest and most conductive material ever discovered. 200 times stronger than steel yet less than an atom thick, it is considered by many to be a natural successor to silicon. Its capabilities include extending battery life, generating electricity and powering high speed data connections as well as supercomputers.

Simon Fogg

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