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Researchers from Penn State University in the U.S. alongside Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, have created a 2D atomically thin metal material that will open unprecedented doors for new applications in Science.
The material will be useful for quantum phenomena, biomolecular sensing, and nonlinear optics, among other applications.
Their findings were published in the journal Nature.
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Special type of graphene
"We have leveraged our understanding of a special type of graphene, dubbed epitaxial graphene, to stabilize unique forms of atomically thin metals. Interestingly, these atomically thin metals stabilize in structures that are completely different from their bulk versions, and thus have very interesting properties compared to what is expected in bulk metals," said Natalie Briggs, co-author of the study and doctoral candidate at Penn State.
Rust and corrosion typically occur when metals are exposed to air. When talking about 2D metals, the entire layer can form a layer of rust capable of destroying its metallic properties.
The team had to find a way around this problem by using a single layer of graphene that automatically "caps" the 2D metal as its being created.
To explain this Penn State associate professor of material science and engineering, Joshua Robinson, states "In this paper, the focus is on the fundamental properties of the metals that are going to enable a new set of research topics. It shows that we are able to develop novel 2-D materials systems that are applicable in a variety of hot topics such as quantum, where graphene is a key link that allows us to think about combining very different materials that normally could not be combined to form the basis for superconducting or photonic qubits."
The process to create 2D metals is referred to as confinement heteroepitaxy or CHet.
The next steps of the study will be to prove the superconducting, sensing, optical, and catalytical properties of the materials.