Kingston, ON, Canada--Researchers at Queen's University have discovered a cheaper method for making a substance similar to graphene (http://www.laserfocusworld.com/articles/print/volume-48/issue-05/features/graphene-photonics-are-making-their-way-to-practical-use.html)—a wonder material discovered in 2004. Graphene is a single layer of carbon atoms, arranged in a lattice pattern, with a wide range of applications including mobile device screens, solar cells, aircraft components, hydrogen fuel cells, and fast-charging lithium-ion batteries. But a discovery by chemistry professor Suning Wang and her team at Queen's University allows for the creation of a material with properties similar to graphene at a much lower cost.
"Dr. Wang's elegant process creates a powerful tool to make B,N-doped graphene-based materials. These materials could potentially be used in a vast range of applications in the electronic, semiconductor, display, fuel cell, solar cell, sensing and imaging industries, to name just a few," says Lucy Su, commercial development manager at PARTEQ Innovations, which filed for patent protection on the technology.
Graphene's revolutionary properties derive from its delicate structure, a single-atom-thick sheet of carbon atoms arranged in honeycomb lattices. Creating this ultrathin honeycomb sheet is both tedious and difficult. Dr. Wang and her team have created a simpler, greener "bottom-up" method that replaces some of the carbon atoms with boron and nitrogen. This enables them to "grow" graphene-like honeycomb lattices, simply by exposing the compounds to light. Moreover, unlike graphene, the products can be highly fluorescent. The discovery has been demonstrated by the transformation of a non-fluorescent precursor into a graphene-like fluorescent material. The researchers mixed a non-fluorescent compound in a polymer film. The film was covered up in certain areas to create a pattern. The uncovered areas, when exposed to light, glowed with a bright green hue, evidence that the original, non-fluorescing material had been converted into a fluorescent material. The material could potentially be used in luminescent probes, sensors, electroluminescent devices, or for hydrogen storage.
PARTEQ Innovations is the not-for-profit technology transfer office founded by Queen's University and is a partner in the Rideau Commercialization Network. PARTEQ works with institutional researchers and the business and venture capital communities to bring early stage technologies to market.
SOURCE: Queen's University; http://www.queensu.ca/news/articles/queens-chemists-discover-simpler-method-making-wonder-material