New project aims to utilize graphene and other technologies to improve roads

As part of a £8.6 million research project, announced in support of the government’s UK Innovation Strategy, University of Cambridge engineers will explore how Digital Twins, smart materials, data science and robotic monitoring can work together to develop a connected physical and digital road infrastructure system.

This project is one of eight Prosperity Partnerships being supported with an investment of almost £60 million by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), businesses and universities.

Boron nitride assists in protecting graphene in order to achieve next-gen electronics

Researchers from AMO, Oxford Instruments, Cambridge University, RWTH Aachen University and the University of Wuppertal have demonstrated a new method to use plasma enhanced atomic layer deposition (PEALD) on graphene without introducing defects into the graphene itself.

Currently, the most advanced technique for depositing dielectrics on graphene is atomic layer deposition (ALD), which allows to precisely control the uniformity, the composition and the thickness of the film. The process typically used on graphene and other 2D materials is thermal water-based ALD, as it does not damage the graphene sheet. However, the lack of nucleation sites on graphene limits the quality of the dielectric film, and requires the deposition of a seed layer prior to ALD to achieve good results. Another approach is plasma enhanced atomic layer deposition (PEALD), which, when applied to growth on graphene, can introduce surface damage. This is what to team addressed in this recent work.

Graphene to enable ten times higher data storage in computer memories

Researchers at Graphene Flagship partners the University of Cambridge, UK, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, Empa-Swiss Federal Laboratories for Material Science and Technology, Switzerland and Graphene Flagship Associate Member the University of Exeter, UK, in collaboration with colleagues at CSIR-Advanced Materials and Processes Research Institute, India, National University of Singapore (NUS), A*STAR (Agency for Science, Technology and Research), Singapore, the University of Illinois and Argonne National Laboratory, US, have demonstrated that graphene can be used to produce ultra-high density hard disk drives (HDD). This can potentially lead to the development of ultrahigh density magnetic data storage: a big jump from the current one terabit per square inch (Tb/in2) to ten terabits over the same area.

HDDs contain two major components: platters and a head. Data are written on the platters using a magnetic head, which moves above the platters as they spin. The space between head and platter is continually decreasing to enable higher densities. Currently, carbon-based overcoats (COCs) – layers used to protect the platters from mechanical damages and corrosion – occupy a significant part of this spacing. The data density of HDDs has quadrupled since 1990, and the overcoats’ thickness was reduced from 12.5nm to about 3nm, which corresponds to one Tb/in2. However, a COCs’ thickness of less than one nm would be required to make a significant improvement in data storage and reach a density of 10 Tb/in2.

Understanding the "coffee ring effect" leads to better graphene and 2D inks

Researchers from Imperial College London, Durham University, University of Cambridge, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Zhejiang University, Beihang University, Nanjing Tech University, Macquarie University, University of British Columbia and Aalto University have collaborated to examine the "coffee ring effect" which has been hindering the industrial deployment of functional inks with graphene, 2D materials, and nanoparticles because it makes printed electronic devices behave irregularly.

Ink examples and corresponding optical micrographs of printed single lines on Si/SiO2 image

The team of researchers has now created a new family of inks that overcomes this problem, enabling the fabrication of new electronics such as sensors, light detectors, batteries and solar cells.

Researchers show the amphipathic nature of graphene flakes and examine their potential for use as surfactant

Researchers at Cranfield University and the University of Cambridge in the UK, Institut Pasteur in France, Silesian University of Technology in Poland and UniversIti Teknologi PETRONAS in Malaysia have found that at a particular size (below 1-micron lateral size), it is possible to achieve amphiphilic behaviour in graphene. This graphene flake attracts water at its edges but repels it on its surface, making it a new generation of surfactant that can stabilize oil and water mixtures.

In a statement, Krzysztof Koziol, Professor of Composites Engineering and Head of the Enhanced Composites and Structures Centre at Cranfield University said, “This new finding, and clear experimental demonstration of surfactant behavior of graphene, has exciting possibilities for many industrial applications. We produced pristine graphene flakes, without application of any surface treatment, at a specific size which can stabilize water/oil emulsions even under high pressure and high temperature... Unlike traditional surfactants which degrade and are often corrosive, graphene opens new level of material resistance, can operate at high pressures, combined with high temperatures and even radiation conditions; and we can recycle it. Graphene has the potential to become a truly high-performance surfactant.”