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Nanoscale sandwich for molecular sensing

A research team from Rice University has modelled a nanoscale sandwich in which two slices of graphene surround nanoclusters of magnesium oxide. According to the team, the sandwich should result in a ‘super strong conductive material’ with expanded optoelectronic properties.

Rice materials scientist Rouzbeh Shahsavari and his colleagues built computer simulations of the compound and found it would offer features suitable for molecular sensing, amongst other applications. The work could help researchers design a range of customisable hybrids of 2D and 3D structures with encapsulated molecules, Shahsavari said.

While graphene has no band gap, the hybrid does and the team says this band gap could be tunable, depending on the components. Optical properties may also tunable.

"We saw that while this single flake of magnesium oxide absorbed one kind of light emission, when it was trapped between two layers of graphene, it absorbed a wide spectrum,” Shahsavari noted. “That could be an important mechanism for sensors.”

Shahsavari believes the theory could be applicable to other 2D materials, like hexagonal boron nitride. “There is no single material that can solve all the technical problems of the world,” he said. “It always comes down to making hybrid materials to synergise the best features of multiple components to do a specific job. My group is working on these hybrid materials by tweaking their components and structures to meet new challenges.”

Author
Graham Pitcher

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