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Researchers tune the strain in graphene drumheads to create quantum dots
Date:6/21/2012

Tightening or relaxing the tension on a drumhead will change the way the drum sounds. The same goes for drumheads made from graphene, only instead of changing the sound, stretching graphene has a profound effect on the material's electrical properties. Researchers working at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Maryland have shown that subjecting graphene to mechanical strain can mimic the effects of magnetic fields and create a quantum dot, an exotic type of semiconductor with a wide range of potential uses in electronic devices.

The results were reported in the June 22, 2012, issue of Science.*

Graphene is a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb lattice. Able to conduct electricity with little resistance at room temperature, graphene is a prime candidate for applications ranging from flexible displays to high speed transistors.

However, the same lack of electrical resistance that makes graphene attractive for some uses also makes it ill-suited for digital computing applications. Graphene conducts electricity so well because it doesn't have a band gapan energetic threshold beneath which the material won't conduct electricity. This means that graphene can't be turned "off," and computers need "on" and "off" signals to transmit and process information.

Because substrates slow the speed of electrons moving through graphene, Nikolai Klimov, a University of Maryland postdoctoral researcher working at NIST, suspended the graphene over shallow holes in a substrate of silicon dioxideessentially making a set of graphene drumheads. To measure the graphene's properties, the team used a unique scanning probe microscope designed and built at NIST.

When they began to probe the drumheads, they found that the graphene rose up to meet the tip of the microscope a result of the van der Waals force, a weak electrical force that creates attraction between objects that are
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Contact: Mark Esser
mark.esser@nist.gov
301-975-8735
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Source:Eurekalert

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