Technical / Research

Researchers use "fuzzy graphene" to promote a carbon-neutral economy

Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Carnegie Mellon University, North Carolina State University and Yale University have developed a novel method to enhance the efficiency and stability of solar-driven, carbon-dioxide reduction.

Image credit: Applied Materials and Interfaces

This new technique involves the use of “fuzzy” graphene to improve the performance of semiconductor-based photoelectrodes, which initialize electrochemical transformations following the absorption of light. The term fuzzy refers to a form of graphene that has a rough or irregular surface with a porous and three-dimensional (3D) structure, as opposed to smooth or flat layers, with enhanced properties like surface area, reactivity or adhesion to a silicon molecule, or substrate.

Read the full story Posted: Jul 19,2024

Researchers use engineered graphene material to improve the performance of intraneural peripheral nerve electrodes

Limb neuroprostheses aim to restore motor and sensory functions in amputated or severely nerve-injured patients. These devices use neural interfaces to record and stimulate nerve action potentials, creating a bidirectional connection with the nervous system. Most neural interfaces are based on standard metal microelectrodes. 

Left: a histological section of the nerve implanted with an electrode longitudinally. Right, an image of the sciatic nerve with an EGNITE electrode implanted transversely to allow stimulation and recording of nerve impulses. Image credit: UAB

Researchers at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) and ICN2 have demonstrated in animal models how Engineered Graphene for Neural Interface (EGNITE), a derivative of graphene, allows the creation of smaller electrodes, which can interact more selectively with the nerves they stimulate, thus improving the efficacy of the prostheses. The study also demonstrated that EGNITE is biocompatible, showing that its implantation is safe.

Read the full story Posted: Jul 12,2024

Researchers develop a 2D device for quantum cooling

Researchers at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland and National Institute for Materials Science in Japan have combined the electrical properties of graphene with the semiconducting characteristics of indium selenide in a field-effect geometry, to create a device that can efficiently convert heat into electrical voltage at temperatures lower than that of outer space. The innovation could help overcome a significant obstacle to the advancement of quantum computing technologies, which require extremely low temperatures to function optimally.

Device schematic representing a fully encapsulated few-layer InSe channel, with graphene electrodes. Image credit: Nature Nanotechnology

To perform quantum computations, quantum bits (qubits) must be cooled down to temperatures in the millikelvin range (close to -273 Celsius), to slow down atomic motion and minimize noise. However, the electronics used to manage these quantum circuits generate heat, which is difficult to remove at such low temperatures. Most current technologies must therefore separate quantum circuits from their electronic components, causing noise and inefficiencies that hinder the realization of larger quantum systems beyond the lab. Now, researchers in EPFL’s Laboratory of Nanoscale Electronics and Structures (LANES), led by Andras Kis, have fabricated a device that not only operates at extremely low temperatures, but does so with efficiency comparable to current technologies at room temperature.

Read the full story Posted: Jul 06,2024

Researchers develop method to control quantum bound states in superconducting device

Professors Gil-Ho Lee and Gil Young Cho from Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) in South Korea have collaborated with Dr. Kenji Watanabe and Dr. Takashi Taniguchi from National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) in Japan to successfully control the quantum mechanical properties of Andreev bound states in bilayer graphene-based Josephson junctions using gate voltage. 

Superconductors exhibit zero electrical resistance under specific conditions such as extremely low temperatures or high pressures. When a very thin normal conductor is placed between two superconductors, a supercurrent flows through it due to the proximity effect where superconductivity extends into the normal conductor. This device is known as a Josephson junction. Within the normal conductor, new quantum states called Andreev bound states are formed, which are crucial for mediating the supercurrent flow.

Read the full story Posted: Jul 03,2024

Researchers use graphene to develop a method that visualizes ligands on gold nanoparticles in liquid

Researchers at the University of Antwerp and CIC biomaGUNE have reported a novel method based on graphene, for understanding the role of surface molecules in the formation of nanoparticles. The research provides an advanced characterization tool for the design of nanomaterials.

Gold nanoparticles have been the subject of intense research for several decades due to their interesting applications in fields such as catalysis and medicine. "Surface ligands" are organic molecules typically present on the surface of gold nanoparticles. During synthesis, these surface ligands play an important role in controlling the size and shape of the nanoparticles. For several decades, the CIC biomaGUNE team led by Ikerbasque Research Professor Luis Liz-Marzán has studied the growth mechanisms and properties of these nanoparticles. However, many questions remain about the exact behavior of surface ligands during and after growth. Direct observation of surface ligands and their interface with gold nanoparticles has therefore been a long-standing goal for many scientists in this field.

Read the full story Posted: Jun 30,2024

Researchers show that trilayer graphene with a twist could speed up electrochemical reactions

Researchers from the University of Michigan, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Carnegie Mellon University and Harvard University have shown that three layers of graphene, in a twisted stack, benefit from a similar high conductivity to "magic angle" bilayer graphene but with easier manufacturing—and faster electron transfer. The findings could improve nano electrochemical devices or electrocatalysts to advance energy storage or conversion.

Twisting two sheets of graphene at a 1.1° angle, dubbed the "magic angle," creates a "flat band" structure, meaning the electrons across a range of momentum values all have roughly the same energy. Because of this, there is a huge peak in the density of states, or the available energy levels for electrons to occupy, at the energy level of the flat band which enhances electrical conductivity. Recent work experimentally confirmed these flat bands can be harnessed to increase the charge transfer reactivity of twisted bilayer graphene when paired with an appropriate redox couple—a paired set of chemicals often used in energy storage to shuttle electrons between battery electrodes. Adding an additional layer of graphene to make twisted trilayer graphene yielded a faster electron transfer compared to bilayer graphene, according to the team's recent study, that created an electrochemical activity model.

Read the full story Posted: Jun 26,2024

Researchers design graphene-based thermal regulator that enable safer lithium-ion batteries

Researchers at Tsinghua University, Zhejiang University and Zhejiang Sanhua Intelligent Controls Co., have designed a graphene-based thermal-switching material for improving the safety of lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) by making sure that they can safely operate at different temperatures and do not explode when overheated.

a) Thermal-switching mechanism of the TSM. b) The self-assembly process through freeze-casting of 2D-flake–microsphere suspensions to form an alternating multilayer scaffold together with polymer infiltration. Image credit: Nature Energy

A general approach to improving the safety of LIBs is using thermal-conducting interlayers, materials designed to even out the temperature between a battery's modules, bringing it to between 15 to 45 °C. To ensure that a high-capacity LIB is safe, these materials should be highly thermally insulating, thus preventing the propagation of heat, while also ensuring that temperature is uniformly distributed in the battery. The research team's newly developed thermal-switching material meets both criteria, and can effectively regulate the temperature in high-capacity batteries. This material rapidly responds to temperature, enabling the safe cycling of batteries in varying operating conditions.

Read the full story Posted: Jun 22,2024

Researchers develop soft robotic gripper using graphene and liquid crystals

Researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) have designed a soft robotic "hand" made from liquid crystals (LCs) and graphene, that could be used to design future surgical robots. 

One of the issues that need to be addressed before such robots can be used in operating rooms is to figure out how to precisely control and move these deformable robots. Also, many current soft robots contain metals, which means that their use in water-rich environments—like the human body—is rather limited.

Read the full story Posted: Jun 22,2024

Researchers develop method to create stretchable and tough graphene films

Researchers have been working on creating elastic and tough graphene films, but it has proven quite challenging so far. Now, researchers at Shanghai Jiao Tong University have introduced a method to overcome this hurdle: they linked graphene nanolayers via "extendable" bridging structures.

Image credit: Angewandte Chemie

The special properties of graphene nanolayers often drop off when the layers are assembled into foils, because they are only held together by relatively weak interactions—primarily hydrogen bonds. Approaches that attempt to improve the mechanical properties of graphene foils by introducing stronger interactions have only been partially successful, leaving room for improvement in the stretchability and toughness of the materials. The research team, led by Xuzhou Yan at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China, chose a new approach: they cross-linked graphene nanolayers with mechanically interlocked molecules whose building blocks are not chemically linked, but rather inseparably spatially entangled. The researchers used rotaxanes as their links.

Read the full story Posted: Jun 16,2024

Researchers develop new approach for controlling thermal emission

Researchers from the University of Manchester, The Pennsylvania State University, Koç University and Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien) have tackled the challenge of control of thermal radiation, demonstrating a new topology-based approach.

The team explained that conventional approaches to tailoring thermal emission using metamaterials are hampered both by the limited spatial resolution of the required subwavelength material structures and by the materials’ strong absorption in the infrared. In their recent work, the scientists developed an approach based on the concept of topology: by changing a single parameter of a multilayer coating, they were able to control the reflection topology of a surface, with the critical point of zero reflection being topologically protected. 

Read the full story Posted: Jun 10,2024