With its ultra-thinness, extreme strength, and other mysterious properties, graphene is one of the world’s most studied substances. One area of study being aggressively examined is how the properties of this wonder material change when combined with a variety of other materials. A new study out of Vienna University of Technology is emphasizing the importance of combining graphene with other materials in order for it to reach maximum utility.
Study lead Bernhard C. Bayer likened the necessity of multiple layers for getting the best use out of graphene to a pizza, of all things.
“As with a pizza, graphene technology is not only dependent on the graphene pizza base but also on its toppings,” explains Bernhard C. Bayer from the Institute of Materials Chemistry at the TU Wien, who led the study. “How these toppings are applied to the graphene is, however, crucial.”
Graphene reacts and functions differently depending what material it interacts with. Perhaps not surprisingly, some combinations produce unexpected results. It all happens at the atomic level, not simply laying a material layer on top of some graphene. When certain atoms are placed in close proximity with graphene, the atoms form a crystal structure. Using an electron microscope, the research team has observed for the first time ever how indium oxide grows on graphene.
“What was particularly interesting for us was the observation that, depending on the background pressure, the indium oxide crystallites either arrange themselves randomly on the graphene’s crystal lattice or snap perfectly on one another like Lego bricks. This difference in arrangement can have a major impact on the application properties of the combined materials,” says Kenan Elibol, first author of the study.