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article imageNew innovations with graphene-like materials

By Tim Sandle     Mar 1, 2019 in Science
From special magnets that can aid next generation quantum computers to bulletproof armour, to a coating that can keep spacecraft cool to making more effective electronics — each innovation is based on materials with graphene-like properties.
Graphene is a single-layer of carbon atoms and it has many important properties. Graphene is the strongest material yet known and it has the added advantages of being flexible, transparent and a good conductor of heat and electricity. These properties are driving a range of scientific innovations.
As well as graphene there are other two-dimensional materials that are showing remarkable properties. A few of the more recent innovations, with graphene and graphene-like materials, showcased by the Graphene research Council, are summarized below.
Super-tough armour
New graphene amour has been developed and it is said to be harder than diamond when hit by a bullet. The innovation comes from The City University of New York The graphene armour study is based on two layers of stacked graphene that can harden to a diamond-like consistency upon impact.
Boosting battery power
Irish scientists have tripled battery storage capacity using a graphene-like crystal. This is an innovation that will allow users to store more charge and deliver power for longer so that devices from smartphones to electric cars can run for longer and there will be a longer distance between the demand for charges.
This involved using acids to etch sheets of MXenes from crystals in order to form an ink formed of nanomaterials. The materials were mixed with silicon, and fashioned into battery electrodes.
Quantum computing
Beginning with innovations in quantum computing, a special type of quantum has been developed. The magnets are called kagome magnets and they draw their name from an intricate Japanese basket pattern.
The magnets have particular electronic properties that may well present advantages for future quantum devices and applications. This is because some of the electrons in these materials display topological behaviors and others function like graphene. These properties enable the particles that form the material to collectively rather than as individual particles.
Further in relation to the quantum world, researchers have discovered rarefied quantum properties in a material of a similar structure graphene that could also assist with quantum computer processing speeds. Unlike electrically conductive graphene, this material, called hexagonal boron nitride is a semiconductor.
Light-as-air ceramic to keep spacecraft stay cool
A super-insulating material made out of boron nitride has been found to help to protect spacecraft equipment from extreme heat or cold. Unlike currently used ceramic aerogels, solid dispersions formed from 99 percent air have been shown to be resistant to temperature extremes and they do not become brittle under extreme conditions.
Graphene 'sandwich' for new electronics
Scientists have recently solved one of the steps required to make graphene nano-electronics effective. This is to develop graphene to nanoscale dimensions without adversely affecting the electrical properties of the material. Overcoming this has enabled researchers to achieve electrical currents of orders of magnitude higher than previously achieved for similar structures.
The problem has been overcome by protecting graphene with insulating layers of hexagonal boron nitride, another two-dimensional material with insulating properties.
For earlier innovations in Graphene, see Digital Journal’s 2018 review “The big graphene innovations you need to know about.”
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