New Technique Allows for Single Atomic Layer Patterning of Graphene

Last month when I suggested an imagined rivalry between graphene and molybdenite for replacing silicon in future transistors, I was pleased with the comments the piece received.

It would seem some are looking more towards the memristor replacing the transistor all together rather than just looking at how to improve transistors, and considering that a paper in IEEE Computer Magazine inspired an article in the New York Times maybe this will be the case.

But getting back to the transistor and graphene, it seems that researchers at Rice University have stumbled upon a way to pattern a single atomic layer of graphene.

The research, which was published last week in the journal Science, provides a technique for controlling the number of layers that are removed when patterning graphene, which previous techniques could not achieve.

“One cannot make a layer thinner than a single atomic layer. That’s it,” explains James Tour, Rice's T.T. and W.F. Chao Chair in Chemistry in the video below. “We have hit the bottom.” 

According to Ayrat Dimiev, a postdoctoral scientist in Tour's lab, the discovery of the patterning technique was a complete accident. “We had no idea that we would be removing a single carbon layer from graphene,” he says in the video. “We were trying to reduce the graphene in a new way using zinc and hydrochloric acid.”

While the patterning technique may not have a bottom on the vertical dimension, the researchers recognize that the ideal would be to achieve the same precision on the horizontal dimension. 

So graphene can be imbued with a band gap and it’s possible to achieve single atomic layer patterning so when can we expect to see someone making an electronic device out of the stuff?



IEEE Spectrum’s nanotechnology blog, featuring news and analysis about the development, applications, and future of science and technology at the nanoscale.

Dexter Johnson
Madrid, Spain
Rachel Courtland
Associate Editor, IEEE Spectrum
New York, NY