University of Manchester scientists have demonstrated the huge potential benefits offered by graphene at the Royal Society’s Summer Science Exhibition held on July 5, 2011.
The versatile material, which finds applications in aircraft wings, touch screens and transistors, was discovered by Kostya Novoselov and Andre Geim, researchers of the University of Manchester, in 2004. During their research work, they utilized Scotch tape to remove the carbon layers from graphite and ended up discovering graphene, a two dimensional layer of carbon that had a thickness of a single atom.
At the exhibition, participants had the opportunity to study how a two dimensional material appears when simple models are used. Visitors were also able to fabricate graphene. They viewed the actual pictures of graphene using the virtual microscope.
The Daresbury SuperSTEM, a superior transmission electron microscope, was used to obtain graphene images. The high magnifications obtained using SuperSTEM enabled users to directly observe the graphene’s atomic lattice in its perfect state and also observe foreign atoms and defects that were introduced voluntarily or intentionally. Users were able to view the SuperSTEM images using the virtual microscope by zooming into certain regions. The material, which appears like chicken wire structures, is extremely tough, highly conductive, and transparent. Graphene offers unique properties, which make it interesting to study.
Charge carriers in this material lack mass and can move long distances without being scattered, making it suitable for remarkable quantum effects and fast electronics applications. Graphene is transparent in nature. It has excellent electrical conductivity that makes it suitable to be used as a transparent electrode in solar cells and LCD displays.
The scientists have used graphene to manufacture high-sensitivity gas sensors that were smaller than the width of hair. These sensors can identify the presence of even one gas molecule on them. It establishes a very tough support membrane for viewing biological molecules. It is electron transparent that even a single metal atom can be viewed on its surface. It can be utilized to create very strong, conductive composite materials.