Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Designing With Graphene-Based Nano-Material Stronger Than Steel

It will not be long before designers will have some incredible new materials with which to work. These materials, constructed at the nano scale will allow for invisibly small devices and incredibly strong materials.

Nanotechnology is the control of matter on an atomic and molecular scale (100 nanometers or smaller). Nanotechnology has the potential to create many new materials (right) and devices with wide-ranging applications, such as in medicine, electronics, and energy production.

Incredibly strong structures like carbon nanotubes (left) are among the existing developments in nanotechnology. These cylindrical carbon molecules have novel properties that make them potentially useful in many applications in nanotechnology, electronics, optics and other fields of materials science, as well as potential uses in architectural fields. They exhibit extraordinary strength and unique electrical properties, and are efficient conductors of heat.

Nanotubes are members of the fullerene structural family, which also includes the spherical buckyballs (named after Buckminster Fuller). The diameter of a nanotube is on the order of a few nanometers (approximately 1/50,000th of the width of a human hair).

Another nanotech material called graphene, created by scientists just five years ago, is 200 times stronger than steel, its electrons are highly mobile and it has unique optical and transport properties. Some experts believe that graphene may be more versatile than carbon nanotubes, and the ability to make graphene magnetic adds to its potential for novel applications in spintronics. Spintronics is a process using electron spin to synthesize new devices for memory and data processing.

An international team of researchers has designed a new graphite-based, magnetic nano-material that acts as a semiconductor and could help material scientists create the next generation of electronic devices like microchips.

The team of researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU); Peking University in Beijing, China; the Chinese Academy of Science in Shanghai, China; and Tohoku University in Sedai, Japan; used theoretical computer modeling to design the new material they called graphone, which is derived from existing graphene material.

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