According to reports, a team of researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, has made a “once in a decade” discovery that will radically change the way we do chemistry.
The group of scientists has managed to create a two-dimensional material, no thicker than atoms, something that has never been seen before in nature. The incredible breakthrough will not only revolutionize the way we do chemistry but could be applied to enhance data storage and make faster electronics. The “once-in-a-decade” discovery has been published in Science.
The research that resulted in this unprecedented discovery was led by Kourosh Kalantar-Zadeh and Torben Daeneke of the RMIT Engineering School.
Together with their students, they worked on the development of the material for over a year.
“When you write with a pencil, the graphite leaves very thin flakes called graphene, that can be easily extracted because they are naturally occurring layered structures,” explained Daeneke. “But what happens if these materials don’t exist naturally?
This image of a liquid metal “slug” and its clear atom-thick “trail” shows the breakthrough in action. Image Credit: RMIT
“Here we found an extraordinary, yet a very simple method to create atomically thin flakes of materials that don’t naturally exist as layered structures.
“We use non-toxic alloys of gallium (a metal similar to aluminum) as a reaction medium. This covers the surface of the liquid metal with atomically thin oxide layers of the added metal rather than the naturally occurring gallium oxide.
“This oxide layer can then be exfoliated by simply touching the liquid metal with a smooth surface. Larger quantities of these atomically thin layers can be produced by injecting air into the liquid metal, in a process that is similar to frothing milk when making a cappuccino.”
What’s even more exciting is that scientists say that the process is so cheap and simple, that it could be done on a kitchen stove by a non-scientist.
“I could give these instructions to my mum, and she would be able to do this at home,” Daeneke said.
The discovery has profound implications for future technologies as the discovery now places previously unseen thin oxide materials into everyday reach says Professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh.
“We predict that the developed technology applies to approximately one-third of the periodic table. Many of these atomically thin oxides are semiconducting or dielectric materials.
“Semiconducting and dielectric components are the foundation of today’s electronic and optical devices. Working with atomically thin components is expected to lead to better, more energy efficient electronics. This technological capability has never been accessible before.”
Featured image credit: iStockphoto/Thinkstock