updated - June 23, 2017 Friday EDT
Graphene may be the material of the future. Now, scientists have found that this ultra-strong, ultra-light material can conduct electricity far better than expected. The findings could be huge for the future of this material in practical applications.
Graphene itself is single-atom-thick carbon that's known to be both strong and light for its size. The researchers created nanoribbons of this material by growing the graphene on the side walls of a ridge of silicon carbide, according to Nature.
After creating these nanoribbons, the researchers found that they act more like optical waveguides or quantum dots; essentially, the nanoribbons allowed electrons to flow smoothly along the edges of the material, according to New Electronics. In fact, the material could carry electrons with almost no resistance, even at room temperature.
"This work shows that we can control grapheme electrons in very different ways because the properties are really exceptional," said Walt de Heer, one of the researchers, in an interview with New Electronics. "This could result in a new class of coherent electronic devices based on room temperature ballistic transport in graphene. Such devices would be very different from what we make today in silicon."
That said, this new finding doesn't necessarily mean that there will be an electronics revolution. Years of theoretical work has shown that disorder due to imperfections in narrow ribbons will destroy rapid conduction, according to Nature. This means that more research needs to be conducted before any firm conclusions are drawn when it comes to graphene nanoribbons.
That said, Heer remains optimistic.
"This should enable a new way of doing electronics," said Heer in an interview with New Electronics. "We are already able to steer these electrons and we can switch them using rudimentary means. We can put a roadblock, and then open it up again. New kinds of switches for this material are now on the horizon.
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