By Yoon Sung-won
Researchers in South Korea have developed a synthesis method for a new type of graphene that will benefit new applications including seawater desalination, according to Samsung Electronics and Sungkyunkwan University.
Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT) researchers and Sunkyunkwan University’s advanced materials science and engineering professors have jointly researched the original technology to synthesise the large-area monatomic amorphous graphene allotrope on germanium semiconductor wafers.
The study on the new type of graphene, which is non-conductive and super-permeable, is featured in the international scientific journal “Science Advances” under the title “Realisation of continuous Zachariasen carbon monolayer.”
“If an amorphous two-dimensional material that allows penetration of water but not ions is developed, it can be used for seawater desalination,” a member of the research team said.
Discovered in 2004, graphene is one of the rare known 2D nanomaterials. It has been known to be composed of a hexagonal lattice of carbon atoms.
The previously known type of graphene has high electrical and thermal conductivity and is highly durable. It is over 100 times more electrically conductive and more than 200 times more durable than steel. Also, it is impermeable. Such characteristics have made graphene a “dream” material for high-performance electronic devices such as wearable display panels and semiconductor chips, as well as medical uses such as drug delivery and condoms.
Since graphene’s discovery in 2004, more diverse 2D materials have been researched. Until recently, however, such studies have focused on crystalline materials with regular atomic structures.
The research team highlighted the growing importance of amorphous materials in actual industries.
“Amorphous materials are widely playing essential roles in the electronics industry due to their superb electronic, mechanical and thermal properties together with practical advantages, including low cost, uniformity and excellent processability,” the team member said.
The Korean researchers have looked into the defect structure of 2D materials and succeeded in synthesising amorphous graphene with its carbon atoms randomly connected to each other.
Unlike the previously known type of graphene, the new type has an irregular array of carbon atoms. It has very low electrical and thermal conductivity and allows certain substances to pass through.
“The achievement stands for substantial expansion of two-dimensional substances which have increasingly been highlighted as the key elements of next-generation industries,” Sungkyunkwan University professor Whang Dong-mok said.
“Based on the new characteristics of amorphous 2D materials, compared to those of the existing crystalline substances, it will also be able to open new academic and industrial applications.”
Previously in 2014, the joint research team of SAIT and Sungkyunkwan University drew attention both from the academic and industrial sectors by developing the original technology for large-scale synthesis of single-crystalline graphene on semiconductor wafers.