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Researchers put a new twist on graphite

Submitted by Shane D Debolt on July 27, 2023 - 1:02pm
Moire Graphite Press Image
A UW-led team has discovered that, by stacking a sheet of graphene onto bulk graphite at a small twist angle (top), “exotic” properties present at the graphene-graphite interface (yellow) can bleed down into the graphite itself. -Ellis Thompson

For decades, scientists have been probing the potential of two-dimensional materials to transform our world. 2D materials are only a single layer of atoms thick. Within them, subatomic particles like electrons can only move in two dimensions. This simple restriction can trigger unusual electron behavior, imbuing the materials with “exotic” properties like bizarre forms of magnetism, superconductivity and other collective behaviors among electrons — all of which could be useful in computing, communication, energy and other fields.

But researchers have generally assumed that these exotic 2D properties exist only in single-layer sheets, or short stacks. The so-called “bulk” versions of these materials — with their more complex 3D atomic structures — should behave differently.

Or so they thought.

In a paper published July 19 in Nature, a team led by researchers at the University of Washington reports that it is possible to imbue graphite — the bulk, 3D material found in No. 2 pencils — with physical properties similar to graphite’s 2D counterpart, graphene. Not only was this breakthrough unexpected, the team also believes its approach could be used to test whether similar types of bulk materials can also take on 2D-like properties. If so, 2D sheets won’t be the only source for scientists to fuel technological revolutions. Bulk, 3D materials could be just as useful.

Read more at UW News

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