About a year-and-a-half ago, researchers at EMPA and the University of Bern in Switzerland along with those from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research devised a method for growing from the bottom up a ribbons of graphene only a few nanometers wide.
In the time that has elapsed since then, researchers around the world have started to examine the material, and now scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have focused one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers on it to uncover its properties.
What the Rensselaer researchers discovered was graphene nanoribbons when segmented take on various surface structures dubbed “nanowiggles” and that these structures produce different magnetic and conductive properties.
It is expected that the findings, which were published in the journal Physical Review Letters in a paper titled “Emergence of Atypical Properties in Assembled Graphene Nanoribbons”, should enable others to pick characteristics of the graphene nanostructure and thereby customize the material to meet the requirements of a particular application.
“Graphene nanomaterials have plenty of nice properties, but to date it has been very difficult to build defect-free graphene nanostructures. So these hard-to-reproduce nanostructures created a near insurmountable barrier between innovation and the market,” said Vincent Meunier, the Gail and Jeffrey L. Kodosky ’70 Constellation Professor of Physics, Information Technology, and Entrepreneurship at Rensselaer in a press release from the Institute covering the research. “The advantage of graphene nanowiggles is that they can easily and quickly be produced very long and clean.”
One of the intriguing bits was that in the researchers’ computational analysis of the nanowiggles they discovered that they produce highly varied bandgaps. According to Meunier, this should allow for the tuning of the bandgap of the material to fit a certain application.
"We have created a roadmap that can allow for nanomaterials to be easily built and customized for applications from photovoltaics to semiconductors and, importantly, spintronics,” said Meunier.