Magazine article Science News

Graphite in Flatland: Carbon Sheets May Rival Nanotubes

Magazine article Science News

Graphite in Flatland: Carbon Sheets May Rival Nanotubes

Article excerpt

Anyone who has written with a pencil may have unwittingly made a few traces of a promising new nanomaterial. Among the thick smears of graphite deposited when a pencil' rubs along paper are probably some carbon films only a few atoms thick, says physicist Andre K. Geim of the University of Manchester in England.

In laboratory experiments, he and his colleagues at Manchester and in Russia have now created freestanding carbon films as thin as one atom. The researchers call the surprising material "few-layer graphene."

In the Oct. 22 Science, the team also reports that it formed the material into a novel prototype transistor that's expected to produce less heat than a conventional transistor does.

"I find this one of the most interesting discoveries that has emerged in condensed-matter physics in the last decade," comments Laurence Eaves of the University of Nottingham in England.

These new findings are "truly outstanding" and "bear huge significance in this field" of carbon nanostructures, adds Philip Kim of Columbia University, who says he has made slightly thicker carbon layers with similar properties (xxx.arXiv.org/abs/condmat/0410314 and 0410315).

The word graphene typically denotes the atom-thick carbon sheets that stack up to form graphite (SN: 4/19/03, p. 243), the main ingredient of pencil lead. Researchers had suspected that short stacks of graphene layers would immediately curl into tubes, spheres, or other curved objects, Geim says.

The isolation of few-layer graphene, which is also known as graphene film, disproves that idea. …

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