Move Over Graphene, Borophene Is Here

Borophene grown on a silver substrate takes a wavy form. This may be suitable for bendable electronics. Image credits: Zhuhua Zhang/Rice University
GRAPHENE – IS IT REALLY THE MATERIAL OF FUTURE?

Certainly. It was touted as the material of future. Since the discovery of Graphene in 2004 by two researchers, Prof Andre Geim and Prof Kostya Novoselov at The University of Manchester, it has created quite a buzz. And yes, this pioneering work got them the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010.

With applications touching humans in every quartet of life, graphene seems to have limitless capabilities. However, there is that traditional challenge ever present: cost of production.

Imagine this: In 2013, Nature reported that cost of one micrometer-sized flake of graphene is more than $1,000. That’s just ridiculous. Obviously, this is why graphene is one of the most expensive materials on Earth.

But worry not, upscaling of graphene production is one of the most researched subject and we are not far away from the “Holy Grail” in scaling graphene production process.

Consider this,

If you’ve ever drawn with a pencil, you’ve probably made graphene.

Simple, isn’t it! I am afraid it is not. For pure quality graphene, one can carry out mechanical exfoliation or chemical vapour deposition. However, Hummer’s method for synthesis of graphene is one of the most followed one.

Enough of these chemistry talks. It is time that scientists gave us some real world applications and then maybe we’ll believe. How about stretchable electronics. Hell yeah!

However, scientists have a new wonder material, “Borophene

We’ve all heard of graphene – the two-dimensional carbon allotrope with exceptional strength, flexibility, and conductance – but what about borophene?

BOROPHENE IS THE NEXT GENERATION GRAPHENE

Borophene is a proposed allotrope of boron made up of single-atom sheets. The research published in the journal Nature Communications reveals that one cluster consists of 36 boron atoms arranged in an two-dimensional sheet with a perfect hexagonal hole in the middle.

The lead scientist Prof. Lai-Sheng Wang said “It’s beautiful. It has exact hexagonal symmetry with the hexagonal hole we were looking for. The hole is of real significance here. It suggests that this theoretical calculation about a boron planar structure might be right.

Structure of borophene
Simulated structure of borophene. Image credits: Wang Lab/Brown University

They demonstrated theoretically that borophene is enriched with more interesting electronic characteristics than graphene, but a strong foothold in production was missing.

BOROPHENE: BORON IN TWO DIMENSIONS

Although bulk allotropes of carbon and boron differ greatly, but in nano regime, the small clusters of these elements show remarkable similarities. Boron analogs of two-dimensional carbon allotropes such as graphene have been predicted.

Andrew Mannix, lead researcher of the study, reported the formation of two-dimensional boron by depositing the elemental boron onto a silver surface under ultrahigh-vacuum conditions. The graphene-like structure was buckled, weakly bonded to the substrate, and metallic.

Theoretical studies predict that two-dimensional (2D) boron sheets will adopt an atomic configuration similar to that of boron atomic clusters.

SYNTHESIS AND PROPERTIES OF BOROPHENE

Recently researchers from Rice University, USA and Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, China, reported the physical properties and successful synthesis of borophene using molecular beam epitaxy in the journal of Advanced Functional Materials.

Guess what, not only it was similar to the graphene but more light weighted in nature and the strength able to contribute to the novel desirable properties. They showed that it has “record high” flexibility, a higher stiffness to weight ratio and higher ideal strength than graphene and polymers which currently used in applications.

Borophene grown on a silver substrate takes a wavy form. This may be suitable for bendable electronics. Image credits: Zhuhua Zhang/Rice University

The synthesized borophene is composed of a highly variable boron atom network of hollow hexagons (HHs) in a reference triangular lattice. Owing to this delocalized multi-centered bonding, the researchers say it could open up “qualitatively new phenomena”.

Literally, borophene experiences strain-induced structural phase transitions under strain, whereas other materials go under fracture. Additionally, more HHs increases the material strength of the network. This could even lead to tailored material properties.

BORON IN ELECTRONICS

With the synthesis and characterization of borophene all set the researchers at Northwestern University have moved a step ahead.

The team of Prof. Mark Hersam is investigating the potential application of a variety of 2D materials including borophene in nanoelectronic devices. For the first time, the team made composites and combined borophene with another material to create heterostructures for the fundamental building block for fabrication of the electronic devices.

Borophene offers a fairly rare quality in the “flatlands” of 2D materials: it’s a 2D metal.

As a 2D metal, borophene helps fill a void in the family of 2D nanoelectronic materials,” said Hersam.

He believes that now it will be easy to understand not just the composite studies of the borophene, but also better to understand the chemistry to manipulate the properties of the borophene.

We are at an early stage of the development cycle of borophene,” added  Hersam. “The material was first synthesized fairly recently, and we are now just learning about its chemistry and how to integrate it with other materials.  More work is required before the full potential of borophene is realized in electronic applications.”

FUTURE IS HERE

At Northwestern University, they have already developed a completely ultrahigh vacuum (UHV)-based process for forming a combination borophene-based heterostructures. In addition to this heterostructures can only be handled in UHV processes, which is the most concerned experimental challenge.

Borophene based heterostructure
Borophene based heterostructures. Image credits: Northwestern university

Prof. Hersam perceives that we need to develop more reliable encapsulation and/or passivation schemes which will help to fabricate and test borophenes in a UHV free environment easily.

With enriched properties in advance class the graphene, such as low mass density, high strength, and high levels of flexibility makes borophenes a  promising candidate as a reinforced elements for designing composites and for flexible nanodevices, such as flexible electrodes and contacts for nanoelectronics.

Oh, sounds complex enough! Definitely, fear not.  Watch this space for more digestible news related to borophenes.

 

Have you read:

 

 

 

 

 

IISc Researchers Soaring High By Breaking Record On Graphene Based Electronics

Source Spectrun IEEE Advanced Science News

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