University of Illinois researchers have determined how much energy is needed to bend multilayer graphene, a question that has flummoxed scientists since the material was discovered, according to Science Daily.
Graphene likely holds the key to many future advances in science and technology, but a better understanding of the material’s mechanical properties will be required before those advances can come to fruition.
According to Edmund Han, study co-author and an engineering graduate student, “”The bending stiffness of a material is one of its most fundamental mechanical properties.”
“Even though we have been studying graphene for two decades, we have yet to resolve this very fundamental property. The reason is that different research groups have come up with different answers that span across orders of magnitude,” Han said.
The reason for the different results was due to some teams bending the graphene a lot, and others bending it a little. The material reacts differently under each set of circumstances, Han said.
“When you bend multilayer graphene a little, it acts more like a stiff plate or a piece of wood. When you bend it a lot, it acts like a stack of papers where the atomic layers can slide past each other,” he said.
The research team designed a precise method of measuring how graphene bends by placing layers of the material over a step 1-5 atoms in height. This enabled them to monitor how the material bent over the step when configured differently.
Their findings could pave the way for the creation of futuristic technology like nanobots and stretchable electronics.