Despite the relatively recent discovery of graphene it is being widely touted as revolutionising various industries due to its staggering properties.
Such is the potential that its two Manchester University discoverers were recently told that they would receive knighthoods, while a government fund has been set up to aid commercialisation.
Despite many eye-catching developments in labs across the world, many of the great claims about graphene are yet to be finalised.
One area where big things are expected of graphene is in the microchip industry. Depending on where you ask, though, it seems that overthrowing silicon-based electronics is still quite far off.
However, scientists at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute think that their new graphene production method could help bring about commercialised electronic applications.
The benefits of doing so are potentially vast. Graphene has the possibility of push past the blocks to lower process chip designs that will be found in silicon at the 7nm process, and could open doors for spintronics devices based on spining electrons to store information.
Using a powerful supercomputer, the team at Rensselaer have been able to understand recently hypothesised forms of graphene nanoribbons, fantastically dubbed 'nanowiggles', which can be tuned and customised to specific tasks.
This is useful as it provides a basis of knowledge of how to work with the nanomaterials that could be instrumental in defect-free graphene nanostructures. Up until now, this has caused many problems in developing graphene, creating a “near insurmountable barrier between innovation and the market” according to the team.
Graphene nanowiggles can be easily and quickly produced without defects.
The approach means a different way to create graphene structures. In this case they are chemically formed atom by atom into bespoke nanoribbons, whereas usually graphene material design involves taking existing material and cutting into new structures.
The team says nanowiggles, named after their zigzag edges, can be easily manufactured and modified to display “exceptional conductive properties”. The ability to customise the band gaps and magnetic properties of nanowiggles means that the conductivity can also be fine tuned depending on the intended application.
According to the team, the research should assist in designing new graphene based devices, potentially covering photovoltaics, semiconductors and spintronics. Using the CCNI supercomputer at Rennsselaer for a helping hand, the time before calculations are complete can be cut to just a few months.