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The University of Manchester - Catching Graphene butterflies

DCN Corp® - High-resolution images illustrating this work are available from http://onnes.ph.man.ac.uk/~geim/butterflies/ and, more generally, from  www.condmat.physics.manchester.ac.uk/imagelibrary/.  Credit - UoM and the journal Cloning of Dirac fermions in Graphene superlattices (doi:10.1038/nature12187)University of Manchester (UoM) researchers led by Dr Roman Gorbachev have demonstrated that when the 'wonder material' Graphene is combined with other 'Graphene-like' nanomaterials can pave the way for new areas of discovery and previously unexplored applications.  Such research was published in Nature by a large international team - including researchers from University of Lancaster (UK), Instituto de Ciencia de Materiales de Madrid (Spain) and National High-Field Laboratory (Grenoble, France) - whereby they demonstrated how when Graphene is placed on top of insulating Boron Nitride (BN) - known as 'white Graphene', that the electronic properties of Graphene change dramatically by revealing a pattern resembling a butterfly.  Such a pattern is referred to as the highly sought after Hofstadter butterfly, which has been known in theory for many decades but not previously observed in experiments.

In combining Graphene with other materials in a multiple-layered approach, then it is speculated it could lead to novel applications not yet properly discovered by science or industry.  As stated previously Graphene is the world's thinnest, strongest and most conductive material, and promises a vast range of diverse application - ranging from smartphones and new generation of broadband to drug delivery and computer chips.  Initial trails employing Graphene in consumer products involved touch screens and batteries for mobile phones and composite materials for sports goods are being carried out by major multi-national companies.

As stated previously one of the most remarkable properties of Graphene is its superior conductivity when compared to Copper (Cu).  This being primarily due to its very special pattern created by electrons, which then enable for electricity to be carried across Graphene.  Such carriers are dubbed Dirac fermions and mimic massless relativistic particles called neutrinos.  Thereafter the distinct possibility of being able to facilitate similar physics in a desk-top experiment is one of the most renowned features of Graphene.

In their recent publication the Manchester scientists have found a way to create multiple clones of Dirac fermions where Graphene is placed on top of BN, so that Graphene's electrons can 'feel' individual Boron (B) and Nitrogen (N2) atoms.  Moving along this atomic 'wash-board', the electrons re-arrange themselves again and produce multiple copies of the original Dirac fermions.

The researchers managed to create even more clones by applying a magnetic field, whereby the clones produce an intricate pattern (the Hofstadter butterfly).  It was first predicted by the mathematician Douglas Hofstadter in 1976 and before no more than a blurred glimpse was reported.  In addition, the Manchester study proves that it is possible to modify properties of atomically-thin materials by placing them on top of each other, which can prove to be extremely useful in Graphene applications, such as ultra-fast photo-detectors and transistors.

As stated by Professor Andre Geim - co-author of the paper - "Of course, it is nice to catch the beautiful 'butterfly' whose elusiveness tormented physicists for generations.  More importantly, this work shows that we are now able to build-up a principally new kind of material by stacking individual atomic planes in a desired sequence."

Dr Gorbachev continued to state - "We prepared a set of different atomically-thin materials similar to Graphene then stacked them on top of each other, one atomic plane at a time.  Such artificial crystals would have been science fiction a few years ago - now they are reality in our lab.  One day you might find these structures in your gadgets."

In summary, Professor Geim added - "This is an important step beyond 'simple Graphene'.  We now build foundations for a new research area that seems richer and even more important than Graphene itself."  Original article available here

As with other similar kind of news articles, such as the Science Daily EPFL-LANES Switzerland citation - DCN Corp finds the above research extremely positive.  As before, DCN Corp is wondering if same effect on Graphene can be achieved from the company's homogeneous dip coating displacement protocol?  If so, and you or your colleagues are interested in making the above a reality - please ensure to contact the company as soon as practicably possible.