Rice University scientists have taken an important step toward the creation of two-dimensional electronics with a process to make patterns in atom-thick layers that combine a conductor and an insulator.
The materials at play – graphene and hexagonal boron nitride – have been merged into sheets and built into a variety of patterns at nanoscale dimensions.
Rice introduced a technique to stitch the identically structured materials together nearly three years ago. Since then, the idea has received a lot of attention from researchers interested in the prospect of building 2-D, atomic-layer circuits, said Rice materials scientist Pulickel Ajayan. He is one of the authors of the new work that appears this week in Nature Nanotechnology. In particular, Ajayan noted that Cornell University scientists reported an advance late last year on the art of making atomic-layer heterostructures through sequential growth schemes.
This week's contribution by Rice offers manufacturers the possibility of shrinking electronic devices into even smaller packages. While Rice's technical capabilities limited features to a resolution of about 100 nanometers, the only real limits are those defined by modern lithographic techniques, according to the researchers. (A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter.)
"It should be possible to make fully functional devices with circuits 30, even 20 nanometers wide, all in two dimensions," said Rice researcher Jun Lou, a co-author of the new paper. That would make circuits on about the same scale as in current semiconductor fabrication, he said.Graphene has been touted as a wonder material since its discovery in the last decade. Even at one atom thick, the hexagonal array of carbon atoms has proven its potential as a fascinating electronic material. But to build a working device, conductors alone will not do. Graphene-based electronics require similar, compatible 2-D materials for other components, and researchers have found hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN) works nicely as an insulator.
He has since concluded that the area of two-dimensional materials beyond graphene "has grown significantly and will play out as one of the key exciting materials in the near future."
His prediction bears fruit in the new work, in which finely detailed patterns of graphene are laced into gaps created in sheets of h-BN. Combs, bars, concentric rings and even microscopic Rice Owls were laid down through a lithographic process. The interface between elements, seen clearly in scanning transmission electron microscope images taken at Oak Ridge National Laboratories, shows a razor-sharp transition from graphene to h-BN along a subnanometer line.
"This is not a simple quilt," Lou said. "It's very precisely engineered. We can control the domain sizes and the domain shapes, both of which are necessary to make electronic devices."
The new technique also began with CVD. Lead author Zheng Liu, a Rice research scientist, and his colleagues first laid down a sheet of h-BN. Laser-cut photoresistant masks were placed over the h-BN, and exposed material was etched away with argon gas. (A focused ion beam system was later used to create even finer patterns, down to 100-nanometer resolution, without masks.) After the masks were washed away, graphene was grown via CVD in the open spaces, where it bonded edge-to-edge with the h-BN. The hybrid layer could then be picked up and placed on any substrate.
While there's much work ahead to characterize the atomic bonds where graphene and h-BN domains meet and to analyze potential defects along the boundaries, Liu's electrical measurements proved the components' qualities remain intact.
"One important thing Zheng showed is that even by doing all kinds of growth, then etching, then regrowth, the intrinsic properties of these two materials are not affected," Lou said. "Insulators stay insulators; they're not doped by the carbon. And the graphene still looks very good. That's important, because we want to be sure what we're growing is exactly what we want."
Liu said the next step is to place a third element, a semiconductor, into the 2-D fabric. "We're trying very hard to integrate this into the platform," he said. "If we can do that, we can build truly integrated in-plane devices." That would give new options to manufacturers toying with the idea of flexible electronics, he said.
"The contribution of this paper is to demonstrate the general process," Lou added. "It's robust, it's repeatable and it creates materials with very nice properties and with dimensions that are at the limit of what is possible."
Co-authors of the paper are graduate students Lulu Ma, Gang Shi, Yongji Gong, Ken Hackenberg, Sidong Lei and Jiangnan Zhang; Aydin Babakhani, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering; and Robert Vajtai, a faculty fellow in mechanical engineering and materials science, all at Rice; Wu Zhou, a research associate at Vanderbilt University and Wigner Fellow at Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Xuebei Yang, a former research assistant at Rice, now at Agilent Technologies; Jingjiang Yu, a scientist at Agilent Technologies; and Juan-Carlos Idrobo, a research professor of physics at Vanderbilt and a guest scientist at Oak Ridge. Lou is an associate professor of mechanical engineering and materials science. Ajayan is the Benjamin M. and Mary Greenwood Anderson Professor in Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and of chemistry at Rice.
The work was supported by U.S. Army Research Office and U.S. Office of Naval Research Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative grants; the Nanoelectronics Research Corp; a U.S.-Japan Cooperative Research and Education in Terahertz grant; the Welch Foundation; the National Science Foundation; and Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Shared Research Equipment User Program, sponsored by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences, U.S. Department of Energy.
This news release can be found online at news.rice.edu.
Follow Rice News and Media Relations via Twitter @RiceUNews
Lou Group: http://mems.rice.edu/~jlou/
Ajayan Group: http://www.owlnet.rice.edu/~rv4/Ajayan/
Graphene and boron nitride lateral heterostructures for atomically thin circuitry: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v488/n7413/full/nature11408.html
Images for download:
A photolithography process was used at Rice University to develop a patterned, one-atom-thick hybrid of graphene and hexagonal boron nitride (hBN). Graphene is a conductor and hBN is an insulator, so the 2-D material has unique electrical properties. (Credit: Zheng Liu/Rice University)
A scanning transmission electron microscope image shows a razor-sharp transition between the hexagonal boron nitride domain at top left and graphene at bottom right in the 2-D hybrid material created at Rice University. (Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratories/Rice University)
An atom-thick Rice Owl (scale bar equals 100 micrometers) was created to show the ability to make fine patterns in hybrid graphene/hexagonal boron nitride (hBN). In this image, the owl is hBN and the lighter material around it is graphene. The ability to pattern a conductor (graphene) and insulator (hBN) into a single layer may advance the ability to shrink electronic devices. (Credit: Zheng Liu/Rice University)
Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation's top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,708 undergraduates and 2,374 graduate students, Rice's undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice has been ranked No. 1 for best quality of life multiple times by the Princeton Review and No. 2 for "best value" among private universities by Kiplinger's Personal Finance. To read "What they're saying about Rice," go to http://tinyurl.com/AboutRice.
David Ruth | EurekAlert!
A new method for the 3-D printing of living tissues
16.08.2017 | University of Oxford
Bergamotene - alluring and lethal for Manduca sexta
21.04.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für chemische Ökologie
Controlling electronic current is essential to modern electronics, as data and signals are transferred by streams of electrons which are controlled at high speed. Demands on transmission speeds are also increasing as technology develops. Scientists from the Chair of Laser Physics and the Chair of Applied Physics at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have succeeded in switching on a current with a desired direction in graphene using a single laser pulse within a femtosecond ¬¬ – a femtosecond corresponds to the millionth part of a billionth of a second. This is more than a thousand times faster compared to the most efficient transistors today.
Graphene is up to the job
At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.
Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
26.09.2017 | Information Technology
26.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
26.09.2017 | Life Sciences