Technology 3 min read

A New Graphene Production Method for Smaller Semiconductors

Rendering of a carbon nanotube, measured in the nanoscale. | NASA

Rendering of a carbon nanotube, measured in the nanoscale. | NASA

Revealing a new production process, scientists at UCLA have used light and heat to synthesize graphene nanoribbons.

Graphene, a two-dimensional material composed of a single layer of carbon atoms, has very promising properties for electronics. It is continuously cited as the new miracle element which will revolutionize almost every aspect of our world but has yet to fully show this potential in any quantifiable way.

One of the main issues is that for graphene’s potential to be translated into industrial applications, it is crucial to find the graphene form with the best superconductive capability.

Scientists used light and heat to synthesize graphene nanoribbons.Click To Tweet

In their search for a material with great semiconductivity at ambient temperature, scientists have known for many years that carbon nanotubes have a large ballistic conductivity capability, that is to say with negligible electric resistivity.

However, carbon nanotubes have proven themselves to be hard to manufacture on an industrial scale or to assemble into large arrays to be used in microchips.

Graphene Nanoribbons for Future Semiconductors

Carbon nanotubes are only one of the known forms of graphene. With conduction properties similar to carbon nanotubes, nanoribbons are suggested as an alternative.

Compared to CNTs (Graphene Carbon nanotubes), graphene nanoribbons (GNRs) are relatively easy to synthesize and produce in large quantities while simultaneously maintaining the same superconductive properties.

GNR’s exceptional properties include high electronic mobility (the speed at which the electrons move), high thermal conductivity, stability, and the possibility of modulating its electrical conductance.

With their suitability for large-scale production and their outstanding electronic conductivity at room temperature, GNR’s are particularly attractive for nanoelectronics, but also batteries and supercapacitors.

New Production Process for Graphene Nanoribbons

Currently, there are three major GNR fabrication methods, each with its own approach and limitations. These processes are lithography (cutting graphene strips), bottom-up synthesis, and the unzipping of carbon nanotubes.

Now, a new method for synthesizing graphene nanoribbons has been revealed by scientists at the University of California.

The UCLA team of chemists, led by Yves Rubin, a professor of chemistry, synthesized nanoribbons molecule by molecule using light and heat.

According to research published in the American Chemical Society, the team locked four different molecules into the perfect orientation and used ultraviolet light to stitch them into polymers.

Then, using an oven containing argon gas, these polymers were heated to 600 degrees Celsius to give the nanoribbons their N = 8 armchair (hexagonal) shape.

“Nobody else has been able to do that,” said Rubin. “But it will be important if one wants to build these molecules on an industrial scale.”

Rubin and his team, who filed an application to patent their GNR synthesis process, still have the challenge of being able to manipulate nanoribbons on an individual scale as they have the tendency to bundle together.

Do you think graphene will ever live up to the hype and be a ubiquitous, well-known supermaterial? Or will it forever be relegated to always being “just around the corner”? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. 

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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