Researcher from MIT discovered that graphene's basic properties (chemical reactivity, electrical conductivity and others) can vary dramatically based on the substrate material it is placed on. When placed on silicon dioxide, graphene becomes functionalized when exposed to certain chemicals, but when the substrate is boron nitride, the graphene is inert to the same chemicals.
The research, funded by the US Office of Naval Research, means that you can control the graphene ability to create chemical bonds - using different underlying materials.
The researchers say that graphene's very low thickness is the reason to this unexpected behavior, because the electrical fields of atoms in the substrate material strongly effect the chemical reactivity of the graphene.
This discovery may enable accurate chemical or biological sensors using a micropatterned substrate made from layers of silicon dioxide and boron nitride and a graphene on top. The chemical reactivity will get changed based on the hidden patterning.