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Farjand • Feb 20, 2012

Flexible Electronics Step Closer, Scientists Say "Graphene Oxidized"

Graphene-The wonder material is a step closer to replace Silicon. With its large array of electronic properties Graphene is already a most researched material in the scientific community. Recently researchers from Northwestern University have done something remarkable. They have found a way to oxidize Graphene. It is expected to open new avenues of making flexible electronics.

Image Credit: Science News

Graphene has proved to be useful in many applications. However, a real drawback with the material lies in its zero band gap. This makes it impossible for Graphene to turn OFF when used as a switch, at least in its pure form. Doping it with some impurities is hence essential. The basic way of making it impure is to oxidize Graphene. Northwestern University group has developed precisely this- a method to oxidize Graphene without damaging its lattice structure.

Earlier, for tweaking Graphene's structural characteristics, scientists could think of only one process. It is called the Hummer's method developed in 1940s. However, considering use of harsh acids, it renders the Graphene structure unusable as far as current electronic scenario is concerned. The latest technique as explained by Mark C. Hersam, professor of materials science and engineering at the McCormick School rests on nascent oxygen.

In an ultra-high Vacuum chamber, hot Tungsten filament at about 1500 Deg C is exposed to Oxygen (O2). As both the elements come in  contact, Molecular Oxygen is transformed into atomic Oxygen. The researchers then introduced this nascent Oxygen into Graphene thus oxidizing it into a homogeneous form. While this whole process was being conducted there was something more interesting that the scientists observed. They found that the electronic properties of Graphene are a function of amount of Oxygen introduced. The paper relating this development was published in Journal Chemistry. It is titled Chemically Homogeneous and Thermally Reversible Oxidation of Epitaxial Graphene.

In the last century, Silicon and plastics were the center of attraction for many. This has lead to the application in which we are using both the materials today. Similarly, Graphene stands a fair chance of being able to function efficiently in present day electronics industry. On this note, enthusiasts will always try to form different compounds of Graphene. This will make the material work wonders.

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