By Will Soutter
A team of researchers from the SuperSTEM facility at Science & Technology Facilities Council’s Daresbury Laboratory and The University of Manchester has found that graphene, a one-atom-thick carbon material, undergoes a self-mending process to repair holes.
This finding is a significant breakthrough to realize the nanomaterial’s vast potential in a myriad of applications ranging from medicine to electronics. The study is reported in the journal, Nano Letters.
The research team, which consisted of Nobel Prize-winner Professor Kostya Novoselov, was actually exploring the mechanism behind the interaction of metal with graphene, which is important for the integration of nanomaterial into future electronic devices.
For the study, the research team used a powerful electron microscope at the SuperSTEM Laboratory that enables researchers to explore material properties one atom at a time. The team recently showed that metals are capable of initiating the creation of holes in a graphene sheet. This may affect the characteristics of any graphene-based device.
However, what surprised the research team was some of the holes formed in this process were re-knitting the graphene structure by self-mending spontaneously utilizing adjacent loose carbon atoms.
SuperSTEM’s Scientific Director, Dr Quentin Ramasse stated that the fact that graphene is capable of self-healing under the right conditions could differ a proof of concept and a working device without any practical application. Now, there is a method that allows the drilling of the nanomaterial in a controlled manner to shape it at the atomic level and to grow it back in novel shapes. This provides more options to the nanotechnology toolbox, thus opening the door to future technological applications.