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Stacking 2-D Materials Produces Surprising Results

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Graphene, a layer of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb-like pattern.

Researchers at MIT placed a one-atom-thick sheet of hexagonal boron nitride on top of a sheet of graphene, creating a band gap necessary for the material to be used in semiconductor devices.

Credit: Berkeley Lab

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have made progress on the longstanding challenge of developing a band gap property in graphene, which is essential for using the material to make transistors and other electronic devices.

Graphene is a carbon-based material with a structure only one atom thick that has intrigued scientists with its unique electronic properties, strength, and minimal weight. By placing a sheet of graphene on top of another one-atom-thick material called hexagonal boron nitride, the researchers created the band gap needed to develop transistors and other semiconductor devices. Combining graphene with boron nitride, an effective insulator that blocks electrons, results in a high-quality semiconductor.

Furthermore, the researchers found that they could adjust the properties of the semiconductor by rotating one sheet relative to the other, allowing for a spectrum of materials with varied electronic characteristics.

However, the researchers say additional work is needed to increase the band gap, because it is currently too small for practical electronic devices. "The ability to induce a zero-field band gap in graphene may one day allow its use as a switch in transistor applications, providing a viable and inexpensive alternative to silicon electronics," says Rutgers University professor Eva Andrei.

From MIT News
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