Discovery Could Lead to Novel Electronic Devices

Taming 'Wild' Electrons in Graphene

Wednesday, October 25, 2017 - 10:49

Scientists at Rutgers University-New Brunswick have found a way and learned how to tame the unruly electrons in graphene, paving the way for the ultra-fast transport of electrons with low loss of energy in novel systems.

According to the Science Daily report, Graphene, a one-atom-thick layer of carbon, is a better conductor than copper and is very promising for electronic devices. Now the researchers could tame the unruly electrons in graphene which is paving the way for the ultra-fast transport of electrons with low loss of energy in novel systems.

The result of the study was published online in Nature Nanotechnology. The study's co-lead authors are Yuhang Jiang and Jinhai Mao, Rutgers postdoctoral fellows, and a graduate student at Universiteit Antwerpen in Belgium. The other Rutgers co-author is Guohong Li, a research associate.

“Now it may become possible to realize a graphene nano-scale transistor”, Eva Y. Andrei, Board of Governors professor in Rutgers' Department of Physics and Astronomy in the School of Arts and Sciences and the study's senior author.

Thus far, graphene electronics components include ultra-fast amplifiers, supercapacitors and ultra-low resistivity wires. The addition of a graphene transistor would be an important step towards an all-graphene electronics platform.

Other graphene-based applications include ultra-sensitive chemical and biological sensors, filters for desalination and water purification. Graphene is also being developed in flat flexible screens, and paintable and printable electronic circuits.

Graphene is far stronger than steel and a great conductor. But when electrons move through it, they do so in straight lines and their high velocity does not change. "If they hit a barrier, they can't turn back, so they have to go through it," Andrei said. "People have been looking at how to control or tame these electrons."

Her team managed to tame these wild electrons by sending voltage through a high-tech microscope with an extremely sharp tip, also the size of one atom. They created what resembles an optical system by sending voltage through a scanning tunneling microscope, which offers 3-D views of surfaces at the atomic scale. The microscope's sharp tip creates a force field that traps electrons in graphene or modifies their trajectories, similar to the effect a lens has on light rays. Electrons can easily be trapped and released, providing an efficient on-off switching mechanism, according to Andrei.

The next step would be to scale up by putting extremely thin wires, called nanowires, on top of graphene and controlling the electrons with voltages, she said.

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