Researchers have long been toying with the idea of creating electronics with a few layers of atoms. This would have essentially allowed building very thin and ultra-flexible electronics. However, the technique had many problems until now. Researchers have finally found a way to create electronics made from single layers of atoms.
The break-through accomplishment has been made possible with a unique new method called “patterned regrowth.” The main problem with electronics made from multiple layers of atoms has been that researchers were unable to control their properties at such a small scale.
But with “patterned regrowth'” this is finally possible. In this process, the researchers at Cornell University used graphene and boron nitride in a lattice (a partially ordered set of atoms and molecules) which was only single-atom thick. Graphene is a well-known conductor and boron nitride is an insulator. With the help of the two, researchers were finally able to control the properties of the lattice. In areas where current was needed, graphene was used whereas boron nitride was used in the areas where no current was required.
In the “patterned regrowth” technique, researchers first deposited a single-atom graphene layer on copper foil and removed the parts of the layer where no current was required. On this layer, they placed another layer of boron nitride with the help of doping. Boron nitride resided neatly into the regions where graphene layer has been removed and resulted in the formation of junctions between the two layers.
With this remarkable discovery, researchers can finally create stable single-atom thick integrated circuits which, in the long run, can dramatically reduce the bulkiness of the electronics. An added quality of graphene-based electronics is that they are highly flexible and can help create very flexible electronics in the coming days.