Boosting the production of graphene, and controlling and maintaining its unique properties, is a challenge yet to be solved. Yet, one of the barriers to the industrial production of graphene may be broken as a result of new research.
The measure by which any conductor is judged is how simple and fast electrons can move through it. On this point, graphene is one of the most promising materials for a large amount of applications. However, its ultra-high electron mobility is reduced when you synthesize larger sheets of the material. Now, this barrier to industrial production of graphene may be broken due to new research.
Possible applications for graphene touch on nearly every dimension of future technologies, including those which address health and energy.
Possible areas that can take advantage of graphene’s superior mechanical, electrical, thermal and optical properties, include:
- Energy storage;
- Flexible electronics;
- Biomedicine, and many more.
The production of graphene on a large scale
According to KTH the Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, one of the main problems of producing graphene on a large scale is the formation of so-called ’grain boundaries’ – imperfections that appear in the material when synthesising sheets of graphene (typically about 100mm × 100mm or 150mm x 150mm) using a process known as chemical vapor deposition (CVD).
The study presents a simple observation of line defects in this new material. The study’s lead author, Xuge Fan, says that the boundaries are just what they sound like: very small seams in the two-dimensional honeycomb lattice pattern of graphene which scatter the flow of electrons and critically influence the graphene’s material properties.
With the proper visualisation of graphene grain boundaries, scientists could make big gains in the controlled engineering of these unavoidable defects.
Fan said that the method could be useful in speeding up the process of developing large-scale graphene synthesis. He explained: “It offers a quick evaluation of the grain boundary density on large-area graphene samples, which takes no more than two minutes.
“It can also be used for post-mortem analysis of emerging graphene devices that use graphene patches – such as pressure sensors, transistors, and gas sensors – to study the effects of grain boundary line defects on device performance.”
The research was funded by the European Research Council (ERC).