In their experiments, Lau and her colleagues first peeled off a single sheet of graphene from graphite, a layered structure consisting of rings of six carbon atoms arranged in stacked horizontal sheets. Next, the researchers attached nanoscale electrodes to the graphene sheet, which they then refrigerated in a cooling device. Finally, they measured the electrical conductivity of the graphene sheet.
Graphene, first isolated experimentally less than three years ago, is a two-dimensional honeycomb lattice of carbon atoms, and, structurally, is related to carbon nanotubes (tiny hollow tubes formed by rolling up sheets of graphene) and buckyballs (hollow carbon molecules that form a closed cage).
Scientifically, it has become a new model system for condensed-matter physics, the branch of physics that deals with the physical properties of solid materials. Graphene enables table-top experimental tests of a number of phenomena in physics involving quantum mechanics and relativity.
Bearing excellent material properties, such as high current-carrying capacity and thermal conductivity, graphene ideally is suited for creating components for semiconductor circuits and computers. Its planar geometry allows the fabrication of electronic devices and the tailoring of a variety of electrical properties. Because it is only one-atom thick, it can potentially be used to make ultra-small devices and further miniaturize electronics.
|Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala|
University of California - Riverside