Researchers in the Amber materials science research center at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, have discovered a new behavior of graphene. They found that they can cause graphene to spontaneously assemble into ribbons and other shapes while lying on a surface. This could prove enough to make large graphene structures almost visible to the naked eye, and it operates in air at room temperature. The discovery was made almost accidentally while cutting graphene sheets, then realizing the techniques caused the graphene to “spontaneously arrange itself”.

In the short term, the researchers see their findings as potentially useful to pattern graphene sheets to simplify the production of electronic and other devices in larger volumes. However, they also think the self-assembly effect itself may be important as an active component of future sensors, actuators and machines.

The observations reported by the researchers basically reveal how heat energy causes a flat graphene sheet to try to form its more familiar three-dimensional state known as graphite. A mathematical model was created to explain why the effect works. The team believes this is a new class of solid matter behavior specific to molecularly thin sheets.

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