Graphene and Boron Nitride Combined With Precision
The struggle for which material will be the de facto choice for two-dimensional (2-D) devices in future electronics has been ratcheting up over the last couple of years. In July of last year, IEEE Spectrum covered the development of the long-predicted single-layer thick structure of silicon, known as silicene. 2-D silicon is expected to have some of the same remarkable characteristics as graphene, but deliver them in a material that the semiconductor industry has been working with for decades.
Another material that has been pushing graphene for the throne of the 2-D material of the future has been molybdenum disulfide (MoS2). Two years ago it seemed that at best MoS2 could achieve would to be simply a complimentary material to graphene in applications that required transparent semiconductors. Over the last six months, it’s no longer clear that MoS2 shouldn't have it's own starring role.
So it would seem that graphene needs to step up its game if it’s to stake its claim to the 2-D material of the future for electronics applications. Researchers at Rice University have taken up the challenge and developed a process that can be duplicated with lithography techniques to weave graphene (the conductor) with hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN) (the insulator) to create patterns at nanoscale dimensions.
The research, which was published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology (“In-plane heterostructures of graphene and hexagonal boron nitride with controlled domain sizes”), is the latest evolution of a technique that was developed at Rice nearly three years ago. What distinguishes this new version is that the researchers were able to shrink the 2-D devices to even smaller dimensions.