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Water could hold answer to graphene nanoelectronics
Date:10/26/2010

Troy, N.Y. Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute developed a new method for using water to tune the band gap of the nanomaterial graphene, opening the door to new graphene-based transistors and nanoelectronics.

By exposing a graphene film to humidity, Rensselaer Professor Nikhil Koratkar and his research team were able to create a band gap in graphene a critical prerequisite to creating graphene transistors. At the heart of modern electronics, transistors are devices that can be switched "on" or "off" to alter an electrical signal. Computer microprocessors are comprised of millions of transistors made from the semiconducting material silicon, for which the industry is actively seeking a successor.

Graphene, an atom-thick sheet of carbon atoms arranged like a nanoscale chain-link fence, has no band gap. Koratkar's team demonstrated how to open a band gap in graphene based on the amount of water they adsorbed to one side of the material, precisely tuning the band gap to any value from 0 to 0.2 electron volts. This effect was fully reversible and the band gap reduced back to zero under vacuum. The technique does not involve any complicated engineering or modification of the graphene, but requires an enclosure where humidity can be precisely controlled.

"Graphene is prized for its unique and attractive mechanical properties. But if you were to build a transistor using graphene, it simply wouldn't work as graphene acts like a semi-metal and has zero band gap," said Koratkar, a professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering at Rensselaer. "In this study, we demonstrated a relatively easy method for giving graphene a band gap. This could open the door to using graphene for a new generation of transistors, diodes, nanoelectronics, nanophotonics, and other applications."

Results of the study were detailed in the paper "Tunable Band gap in Graphene by the Controlled Adsorbtion of Water M
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Contact: Michael Mullaney
mullam@rpi.edu
518-276-6161
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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