Graphene undergoes self-repairing process

Graphene holes 'repair themselves'
Breakthrough research carried out by researchers at Manchester University has revealed that holes in the 'wonder material' known as graphene can be repaired through exposure to loose carbon atoms.

The team, which included graphene's co-discoverer Professor Konstantin Novoselov, accidentally made the discovery while experimenting with ways to apply metal strips to the material to exploit its electronic properties. The process often resulted in holes being formed in the atom thick sheets, but nearby carbon atoms seemed to snap into place to fill them.

The researchers then etched nanoholes into the sheets under an electron beam at room temperature and used scanning transmission electron microscopy to study the healing process. They found hydrocarbons had a similar effect but resulted in irregular formations in the sheet. Metal atoms also seemed to be attracted to the holes.

However, pure carbon atoms displace the metal atoms and create a perfect repair. The team observed that provided a reservoir of loose carbon atoms is readily available nearby, holes in graphene can be refilled with either non hexagonal near amorphous or perfectly hexagonal two dimensional structures.

First discovered in 2010 by Professors Novoselov and Andre Geim, graphene is the thinnest, strongest and most conductive material ever discovered. 200 times stronger than steel yet less than an atom thick, it is thought to have a wide range of potential uses in the electronics and composites industries.

Laura Hopperton

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