Move Over Graphene? Here Comes Borophene.
In 2004, researchers at the University of Manchester isolated and characterized graphene. A nearly flat, one-atom-thick crystalline form of carbon, the 2D "wonder material" efficiently conducts heat and electricity and is roughly 100 times stronger than the strongest known steel at the same thickness. Graphene production has since been steadily scaled up, bringing down the material's price and making it available for a wide range of applications like smartphone screens, filtration systems, lubricants, and even tennis rackets.
But before graphene has completely fulfilled its heralded potential, some scientists are already looking ahead. Five years ago, a new 2D material emerged: a single crystalline layer of boron atoms dubbed borophene. A team of researchers recently expounded on its exciting prospects in the journal Advanced Materials.
Early estimates suggest that borophene could be an even stronger superconductor than graphene by a 50% margin. It also appears to be the lightest-known 2D material. Moreover, it is uniquely capable at storing hydrogen, suggesting it could radically advance fuel cell technology. Borophene might also be especially adept at sensing toxic gases owing to "increased electronic density along ridgelines and its metallic structure, which can provide electrons for chemical binding," the researchers wrote.
"Borophene may be used in numerous frontline applications, including flexible electronic chips, fire alarms, prompt gas sensors, field-effect transistors, anticorrosion, deoxyribonucleic acid sensing, and solar cells," the authors added.
Unfortunately, borophene looks to be more difficult to produce than graphene.
"The synthesis of borophene is quite challenging as it usually requires highly sophisticated fabrication facilities and ultralow pressures," the authors noted. "Even with such facilities, it is challenging to obtain defect-free borophene nanosheets."
In late 2018, Yale scientists made a "breakthrough" by producing a mere 100 square micrometers, so engineers still have a ways to go.
Numerous groups around the world are striving to make much more, however. With so many learned people setting their minds to the problem, increasing borophene's availability seems more a matter of "when" rather than "if". Materials scientists learned a lot from scaling up graphene and they are adapting that knowledge to speed the arrival of its possible successor.
Source: Pranay Ranjan, Jang Mee Lee, Prashant Kumar, Ajayan Vinu. Borophene: New Sensation in Flatland. Adv Mater . 2020 Jul 14;e2000531. doi: 10.1002/adma.202000531.