Recent research has found that by spatially confining fluorine, feeding gases could be activated while simultaneously disabling the fluorine’s harmful effect. This novel approach to graphene production could significantly reduce the time needed for graphene to grow. More specifically, the rate of growth of a 10cm² graphene could be reduced from ten minutes using previous methods, to a mere three minutes using this newly-discovered method.
In 2004, scientists were beginning to acknowledge the existence of the truly two-dimensional (2D) material, graphene. Presently, they are exploring the breadth of different 2D materials, hoping to uncover more of their fundamental properties. The allure of such 2D materials lies in their distinctive properties: unlike their three-dimensional (3D) version, materials thinned down to only a few atoms are said to be ‘loose net’ and flexible. Such features provide opportunities paving the way for ground-breaking innovation, particularly with regard to opening up possibilities for the design and implementation of new applications for next-generation technologies, such as bendable and wearable devices.
The scientists who carried out this study are confident that ‘this local fluorine supply will readily facilitate fast growth of broad 2D materials or enable the growth of new 2D materials’, something which is currently difficult to realise using other methods. Experimentally, it is not recommended to introduce fluorine during a material's growth, because fluorine gets highly toxic in the reactor. Therefore, instead of using fluorine gas directly, the scientists spatially confined the fluorine supply so that only the minimum amount of fluorine was consumed. Surprisingly, such a simple change lead to a record growth rate of graphene at 12mm per minute.
Students who are considering applying to Material Sciences, along with those interested in applying for Chemistry, Physics or Engineering, can reflect on the potentially revolutionary opportunities this scientific discovery creates, especially in consideration to product design and innovation.