So you won a Nobel Prize for graphene; what do you do for an encore? Make something really useful out of it. Andre Geim at the University of Manchester, along with his colleague Kostya Novoselov put graphene on the (scientific) map around 2004. Their 2010 Nobel Prize put graphene into the public eye and made graphene the cause célèbre of nanotechnology. Now a follow-up: Geim and an international team from England, China, Poland, Russia, and the Netherlands have modified graphene (a sheet of carbon one atom thick) by adding atoms of fluorine. This makes fluorographene, in effect a two-dimensional version of Teflon.
We all know how Teflon is applied to all kinds of things, including U.S. Presidents. The same could be true for fluorographene (except the President part). It could also be better than Teflon, as in even more versatile. While it shares most of the basic Teflon properties (stuff won’t stick to it), the graphene makes for a thinner layer (one molecule thick) that is also stronger. Potentially more important are uses in electronics.
Graphene is considered a semimetal and, as is, it’s not suitable for work as a semiconductor (the basic property exploited by modern electronics). Fluorographene is a semiconductor. It’s not perfect (yet) for that use, but good enough for certain kinds of electronic applications such as LED (light emitting diode) devices. The applications for fluorographene will probably span those already covered by Teflon, add a whole new domain in electronics, and almost certainly find some unique applications – given the uniqueness of graphene. As Professor Geim said:
There is no point in using it just as a substitute for Teflon. The mix of the incredible properties of graphene and Teflon is so inviting that you do not need to stretch your imagination to think of applications for the two-dimensional Teflon. The challenge is to exploit this uniqueness.
[Source: University of Manchester]
In a way, it’s easy to suspect this is some of the low hanging fruit to be gathered from graphene research – imitating a well established material, in this case a specific polymer known as Teflon – provides instant interest and well trodden pathways for commercial development. Why not? Somebody is going to do it, might as well be the guys with the Nobel.
The research paper can be found in the journal Small, November 4, 2010: Fluorographene: A Two-Dimensional Counterpart of Teflon