Everyone's been hailing graphene as a wonder material. It has the strength of Superman, can transport electrons in a flash, and could one day replace silicon in electronics. Two graphene researchers won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2010 for demonstrating its qualities.
You wouldn't think things could get much better. Unless you thought of another class of material with a similar name, graphyne, which like graphene is a sheet of carbon that's one atom thick.
Theoretical chemist Andreas Gorling of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany has been part of a team using computer simulation to study graphyne, and he says it is potentially superior to graphene in one key potential application - electronics.
Citing a study by the team, Science Magazine reports that electrons move just as fast through graphyne as they do through graphene (where they streak more like photons). But there's a bonus - graphyne also happens to route them in one direction only.
"That property could help researchers design faster transistors and other electronic components that process one-way current," Science writes. It quotes Gorling as saying "If your material already conducts in one direction, you have a head start."
Another magazine, Physicsworld, notes, "this could be put to good use in future nanoscale electronic devices." Physicsworld explains that whereas graphene requires doping for carrying charges, graphyne does not.
Gorling and researchers reported their computer simulation findings in a paper called Competition for Graphene: Graphynes with Direction Dependent Dirac Cones, in Physical Review Letters.
Scientists have been studying graphynes since the 1980s, but have not concentrated on their electronic properties, Gorling notes in Science. His team studied three types of graphyne. One type called "6,6,12-graphyne" exhibited the one-directional property.
Gorling has his doubters. Only one type of graphyne has ever been manufactured, and no one has ever made 6,6,12-graphyne, Science points out.
Karsten Horn, an experimental materials scientist at the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science in Berlin, says in the Science story that computer simulations do not alone prove graphyne's electrical properties.
Horn questions whether graphyne could have the superfast electrical conductivity that graphene has. Graphene gets that conductivity from structures known as Dirac cones, which scientists have thought is unique to graphene. Graphyne does not have the same consistent hexagonal structure that helps support Dirac cones in graphene.
Co-authors of the graphyne paper included Daniel Malko, Christian Neiss, Francesc Viñes, and Gorling.
Images: Flash comic from Toon Zone via Wikipedia. Graphene/Graphyne structures from American Physical Society via Physicsworld.
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