Revolutionary two-dimensional (2D) materials can be the basis to an entirely new industry for the 21st century. Almost all the technological developments of the 20th century were based on three-dimensional (3D) materials with special functionalities, namely semiconductors, magnets, superconductors, glasses, polymers and plastics. 2D materials represent a revolution and huge potential in terms of creating innovative devices.
Reducing the dimensionality of materials has generated new possibilities in the development of devices with properties that are ultra-thin (nanometers instead of centimetres), ultra-light (milligrams instead of grams), flexible, wearable, bendable, energy conserving, among others.
Graphene, a semimetal made out of pure carbon, is the poster child of 2D materials.
Other 2D materials include:
Tungsten disulphide, which is made out of Tungsten and Sulfur in a structure shown above. This semiconductor is only 3 atoms thin.
Boron nitride is made out of Boron and Nitrogen atoms in the structure shown above. The material is only 1 atom thin and behaves as an insulator and chemical barrier.
Graphane, made out of Carbon and Hydrogen, is obtained from graphene by hydrogenation. This material is a semiconductor. As hydrogen is added to the flat graphene lattice, it causes buckling of the lattice, forming a structure that is very similar to silicon.
2D materials are the platforms for the creation of new technologies. The industrial sectors that will be most affected by the emergence of these materials range widely and include the following areas:
- Energy: pipeline coating; batteries and super-capacitors; transparent conductive electrodes; solar cells; hydrogen storage; catalysis; lighting;
- Water: filtration membranes; desalination; per-vaporation;
- Electronics, optoelectronics and data: RF tags; FET; memory; SET; integrated circuits; spintronics;
- Aerospace: braking system coating; thermal management; anti-icing; RFI coating; sensor for structural monitoring;
- Automotive: thermal barriers; wear resistant coatings; ESD, EMI, RFI paints; fuel cells; fuel line coatings;
- Coatings and paintings: anti-corrosion; transparent conductive films; superhydrophobic coatings; impermeable films;
- Communications: amplifiers; frequency multipliers; high-speed photodetectors;
- Composites: EMI shielding; fuel containers; alloys for military; polymer composites; polysterene composites; turbine blade composites;
- Sensors: chemical and gas; pressure; bio; radiation; DNA; camera;
- Medical: anti-bacterial coatings; drug delivery; lab-on-a-chip; bio-sensing.
The image above depicts a 20-angstrom thick, highly efficient, photovoltaic device based on what is called a van der Waals heterostructure. Atomic layers of graphene, boron nitride, tungsten disulfide, and gold nano-particles are stacked with atomic precision to promote high light-to-electron conversion rate. The study of this device, a collaboration between GRC and Manchester University, appeared in the journal Science in 2013.
The Graphene Research Centre is funded by the NUS and by NRF under the Centre for Research Excellence and Technology Enterprise (CREATE) and the Competitive Research Programme. The newly-created Centre for Advanced 2D Materials (CA2D) is funded by NRF under the Medium-Sized Centre Grant.