New conductive, magnetic material

14 September 2018

An electrically-conductive and magnetic 2D material, with the potential to transform electronics, was announced this week...

For many years, the Nobel-prize winning material graphene was believed to be the answer to many of the challenges faced by the electronics industry. Graphene comes from graphite, the grey stuff in the middle of your pencil. It is made of a single two-dimensional sheet of carbon atoms arranged in hexagons and can carry electrical current. Impressive as this is, jazzing up graphene to introduce additional properties is not straightforward or scalable.

So scientists are on a quest for the next new material with even more exciting properties. A recent contender is a class of compounds called MOFs, short for metal organic frameworks. Made up of metal atoms and chains of carbon atoms arranged in exotic ways, over 6,000 MOFs, for applications such as storage and separation of gases, have been reported since their initial discovery 20 years ago.

Now, a group at the Technical University of Denmark have revealed that carefully selecting the metal and chain of carbon atoms, produces a new 2D material with high electrical conductivity and magnetism.

“You have to look at the building blocks individually and understand the energy levels,” says lead scientist Kasper Pedersen.

Their combination allows electrons flowing through the material to hop easily between the metal atoms and carbon chains, resulting in electrical conductivity. The permanent magnetic properties come from the clever use of chromium combined with a ring of carbon and nitrogen atoms called pyrazine.

“Until last year, magnetism in two dimensions was a controversial topic,” says Pedersen, adding that "this is the first example where we have shown we can make materials with such interesting properties that we thought were reserved for graphene."

Critically, the new material is simple to make by heating up the necessary chemicals in a sealed vessel and leaving it in the oven for 24 hours at moderate temperature (roughly gas mark 6!). It is also stable in air, meaning it can be used easily in everyday electronics. 

So what can this new wonder material be used for? To be honest, the researchers dont know exactly but they speculate that the materials are likely to find a home in the world of electronics, superconductors, catalysts, batteries and fuel cells.

This new research flings the door open on an army of designer materials that could be easily implemented into everyday products. Bring them on!

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