Scientists discover ground-breaking material: Graphane

Graphane crystal
Graphane crystal. This novel two-dimensional material is obtained from graphene (a monolayer of carbon atoms) by attaching hydrogen atoms (red) to each carbon atoms (blue) in the crystal.

( -- Researchers at The University of Manchester have produced a ground-breaking new material, graphane, which has been derived from graphene.

Graphene, which was discovered at the University in 2004, is a one-atom-thick crystal with unusual highly conductive properties, which has quickly become one of the hottest topics in physics and materials science. It is also tipped for a number of future applications in electronics and photonics.

But research published today (Friday 30 January, 2009) by Professor Andre Geim and Dr Kostya Novoselov, who led the group that discovered graphene in 2004, suggests its uses could be far greater.

Scientists discover ground-breaking material: Graphane
Liquid Crystal Device with electrodes made of graphene with different voltages applied. The overall width of the image is 30 microns. (CLICK FOR ANIMATED VERSION)

That's because the scientists, from the University’s School of Physics and Astronomy, have found that graphene will react with other substances to form new compounds with different properties - opening up further opportunities for development in the field of electronics.

As part of the research, published today in the leading scientific journal Science, Professor Geim and Dr Novoselov have used hydrogen to modify highly conductive graphene into a new two-dimensional crystal - graphane.

The addition of a hydrogen atom on each of the carbon atoms in the graphene achieved the new material without altering or damaging the distinctive one-atom-thick ‘chicken wire’ construction itself.

But instead of being highly conductive, like graphene, the new substance graphane has insulating properties.

The researchers say the findings demonstrate that the material can be modified using chemistry - clearing the way for the discovery of further graphene-based chemical derivatives.

“Graphene is an excellent conductor and is tipped for many electronic applications,” said Dr Novoselov. “However it was tempting to look at ways to gain additional control of its electronic properties through the use of chemistry.

“Our work proves that this is a viable route and hopefully will open the floodgates for other graphene-based chemical derivatives. This should widen the possible applications dramatically.”

The unique electronic properties of graphene have already led researchers to look at ways the material could be used in the development of increasingly small and fast transistors. However, the absence of the energy gap in the electronic spectra forced scientists to use rather complex graphene-based structures like quantum point contacts and quantum dots for this purpose.

The discovery that graphene can be modified into new materials, fine tuning its electronic properties, has opened up the increasingly rich possibilities in the development of future electronic devices from this truly versatile material.

Professor Geim said: “The modern semiconductor industry makes use of the whole period table: from insulators to semiconductors to metals.

“But what if a single material is modified so that it covers the entire spectrum needed for electronic applications?

“Imagine a graphene wafer with all interconnects made from highly conductive, pristine graphene whereas other parts are modified chemically to become semiconductors and work as transistors.”

The Manchester researchers produced high-quality crystals of graphane by exposing pristine graphene to atomic hydrogen. The approach shows a way of making many other ultra-thin crystalline materials based on graphene.

Reference: ‘Control of Graphene’s Properties by Reversible Hydrogenation: Evidence for Graphane’, journal Science.

Provided by University of Manchester

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Jan 30, 2009
Whoa whoa whoa...

Isn't this just Benzene?

Jan 30, 2009
ShadowRam and OregonWind,

It is true that Benzene and Graphane have the same empirical formula, that is, both compounds contain carbon and hydrogen in the same ratios (1:1). But it is very possible for two compounds to have the same empirical formula and yet differ in their structure.

A simple example, since we're talking about carbon rings anyway, is the difference between cyclopropane and cyclohexane. Both contain two hydrogen atoms for every one carbon atoms, but the first has three carbon atoms and the latter six. And they differ greatly in their chemical and physical properties.

In this case, benzene contains a single carbon ring with alternating double bonds. It is a flat molecule with the hydrogens pointing out from the center. Graphane contains countless carbon rings and doesn't contain any double bonds. It is a distinctly three-dimensional molecule with the hydrogens sticking up and down out of the plane of the molecule.

Jan 30, 2009
No problemo

Jan 31, 2009
Great article, great comments.

Jan 31, 2009
Great article. I am curious about large scale applications for this material. Lightweight, strong building material with integrated processor or display technology? Could this be produced to have intermittent zones in which different co - elements bond?

Jan 31, 2009
kool, a generalisable 2d information scaffold from which to create some cryobiological weirdness...

Jan 31, 2009
adding to the whole benzene thing. Benzene is an aromatic compound meaning 3 sp2 bonds for each carbon, and resonating double bonds. Graphene, being in a "chicken wire" sheet structure, needs each carbon to be connected to three other carbons, the two adjacent on its ring, plus one one neighboring to complete the mesh. Adding one more hydrogen would be the 4th bond, the max that carbon can support. Therefore it can have no double bonds, no resonance, and no aromaticity, which is what makes benzene benzene.

Feb 01, 2009
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Feb 02, 2009
Will it be as strong as the carbon nanotube?

Feb 02, 2009
Kudos to the genius who named "graphane" so that it would be mistaken, confused, spell-check corrected, misread, mumbled, etc. to "graphene".

What, was "hydrographene" already taken?

People, please. We're in a recession here.

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