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Cole Burgess
Into to Nanotechnology
Dr. Wesley C. Sanders
April 12th, 2016

Nanotechnology is science and engineering that is conducted at a nanoscale. This scale


applies to objects whose size is between 1-100 nanometers. One recent discovery in the field of
nanoscience, is how graphene can be formed from graphite and its amazing characteristics.
Graphene was first discovered at the University of Manchester in 2004, by two students named
Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov. During one of their Friday night experiments they would
remove small flakes from a lump of graphite. After noticing that some of the flakes were smaller
than others they then decided to continue separating the flakes until it became a one atom thick
individual planar carbon layer. This one atom thick layer of graphite is what we call graphene,
and in 2010 the two were awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for their isolation of the graphite.
Since its discovery there has been quite a bit of research on graphene and the interesting
characteristics that it possesses. The first, and probably most surprising of graphenes traits, is the
strength that it possesses despite its practically 2D structure, its actually about 300 times
stronger than steel It is also very conductive; this is due to the pattern that the carbon atoms take
in their monoatomic structure. The honeycomb shape that the carbon atoms takes allows for
electron transfer with very low resistance. Because of this high conductivity it is being used in
many modern electronic applications. To understand exactly what graphene is, the fundamental
concepts of graphene as stated in Fundamentals of Graphene Magnetoplasmons: Principles,

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Structures and Devices by Nima Chamanara and Christophe Caloz, must be


understood. One fundamental concepts discussed in the research paper are;
the carbon bonds that make up graphene. Other fundamental concepts to understand when it
comes to graphene are, its electronic properties and its mechanical strength and how/why it
possesses these characteristics. The information for these concepts of graphene is explained very
well in a publication by Jesus de La Fuente, the CEO of Graphenea, a website dedicated to
graphene.
The first of the fundamental concepts of graphene involves the carbon bonds that make
up the monoatomic layer. A carbon atom has 4 electrons in its outer shell that occupy the 2s^2
and 2p^2 atomic orbitals. The carbon atoms form covalent bonds through hybridization due to
the atomic orbitals. The carbon uses the sp2 orbital to form a honeycomb structure with
longitudinal bonds that are also called . The remaining 2p orbitals form bonds with the
neighboring carbon, however these bonds are not as strong compared to the bond. These
unique bonds formed by carbon atoms in graphene can be used to explain some of the other
characteristics that it possesses. For example, these bonds are the ones that are responsible for
graphenes very high conductivity of both heat and electricity.
Because graphene is a zero-overlap semimetal it has a very high electrical conductivity.
The electron mobility of graphene has been reported to be above 15,000 cm^2V1s1 however
it has a theoretical potential of 200,000 cm2V1s1. The ability to transport charge that quickly
and without scattering the electrons is referred to as ballistic transport. The high electron
mobility of graphene is due the way in which the carbon atoms bond together. Each carbon is
bonded to 3 neighboring carbons, leaving one valence electron in the third dimension for
electron conduction. These very mobile electrons are the bonds explained in the paragraph

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prior to this, and have very little overlap. Over many years of research scientist have found that
there is a point in graphene where electrons and holes have zero effective mass, this point is
called the Dirac point. These holes and electrons are also called Dirac fermions or grahpinos.
These points occur because the movement is linear at low energies in the six corners of the
Brillouin zone. Because of these points in graphene the electric conductivity at the Dirac points
is much quite low. The high conductivity of graphene is one of its two notable properties, the
second being its mechanical strength.
The mechanical strength could be considered the third fundamental concept of graphene
because it is one of the properties that make it so unique. Graphene is the strongest material ever
discovered due to the bonds formed by the carbon atoms are very strong and are about 0.142 Nm
long. Kevlar, often used for military purposes has a tensile strength of 375,700,000 pascals,
while graphene has a tensile strength of about 130,000,000,000 pascals. That means that it has
about 325 times the tensile strength of grade A36 structural steel. Along with being much
stronger than any other material graphene also only weighs about 0.77 mg per square meter. This
would mean that a sheet of graphene large enough to cover an entire football field would weigh
in at less than a gram. With these amazing properties possessed by graphene, there are many
applications in society and ways that it will be able to advance science.
Because graphene has amazing properties that let it be both the strongest and lightest
material as well as conduct heat and electricity better than anything else it has the potential to be
very beneficial in many ways. One application that for graphene that has been suggested is its
use in electronic devises. Using graphene for phone screens instead of silicon films would
theoretically be much more practical. However, graphene does not have a band gap which means
that it cannot be switched off. Therefore, a band gap would have to be engineered into it before it

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would be able to be used for this application. But if the bad gap were to be added to graphene it
would reduce its electron mobility to the current levels of strained silicon films. Although this is
only conceptual at this point, there are researches that have found that not only is it possible but
it probable to do.
Uses are even being found for graphene oxide which is made when graphite has gone
through an oxidation process using strong oxidizing agents. The reaction helps to expand the
layer separation of the graphite and the product of this reaction is single of few layer graphene
oxide. The graphene oxide now has oxygenated functionalities that make it hydrophilic, which
means that it can be dispersed in water. An amazing discovery was made involving the use of
graphene oxide for the solution to toxic groundwater. The discovery was made in a collaboration
of RICE and Lomonosov Moscow State University. They state that Graphene oxide has a
remarkable ability to quickly remove radioactive material from contaminated water (Another
tiny miracle: Graphene oxide soaks up radioactive waste). The suggested use for this new
discovery is to clean up the contaminated sites like the Fukushima nuclear plants that were
damaged by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Graphene is able to absorb the radioactive waste
because of its large surface area. Kalmykov, one of the researchers on the project said, So the
high retention properties are not surprising to us, what is astonishing is the very fast kinetics of
sorption, which is key. Because graphene oxide is so quick and efficient at the absorption of
toxins it will prove to be very useful in cleaning up the radioactive mess.
There are many more applications that graphene is being used for today and many more
hopeful applications for the material in the near future. Some of these applications include, better
faster phone chargers that could charge your phone in a matter of seconds, and high-power super
capacitors that have the potential of making batteries obsolete. There is also research going into

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the use of graphene for bionic devises in living tissue that could be connected to your nerves.
This would allow people with spinal injuries to re-learn how to use their limbs. The unique
structure of the carbon atoms that make it so strong and conductive are the fundamental concepts
behind this nanomaterial. Graphene has been one of the most impressive nanoscience discoveries
in the recent years. Although its exact characteristics and abilities were not clear when it was first
discovered, years of research have helped us to better understand what this super nanomaterial is
capable of.

References
http://www.e-fermat.org/files/articles/Chamanara-ART-2015-Vol10-Jul_Aug002%20Fundamentals%20of%20Graphene%20....pdf
http://www.graphene.manchester.ac.uk/explore/the-story-of-graphene/
https://www.novapublishers.com/catalog/product_info.php?
products_id=9021&osCsid=f17d1f3f30b3e89ec385de20285f9ae3
http://www.graphenea.com/pages/graphene-properties#.Vwr84KQrKhd
http://news.rice.edu/2013/01/08/another-tiny-miracle-graphene-oxide-soaks-up-radioactivewaste-2/

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