Researchers from Rice University discovered that nanotubes made of Boron Nitride (BN) can be combined with graphene to strengthen the material. The result opens the possibility of making such 'rebar' graphene not only with boron-based nanotubes, but also with other materials that have similar atomic structures.
BN and graphene share similar hexagonal lattice structures, which makes them relatively easy to use together. The researchers found that the BN nanotubes can partially open to form hybrid structures with graphene, while the remaining part of the nanotubes forms a reinforcing bar (or ‘rebar') that strengthens the graphene sheet.
The researchers state that since other matrials exist with similar structures, it stands to reason to make rebar graphene structures with other materials like tungstenite (WS2), carbon nanotubes and molybdenum disulphide (MoS2).
To investigate the electronic properties of their reinforced graphene, the scientists studied a field-effect transistor made from it. They found the device to be semiconducting and ambipolar (electrical current can be carried by both electrons and holes). The rebar graphene can also be easily transferred to other substrates without the help of polymers that often needed for transferring 2D materials.
In April 2014, rebar graphene was discovered to be electrically and mechanically better than CVD graphene.