A team of researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University reports that it has designed a new graphite-based, magnetic nanomaterial that acts as a semiconductor and could help material scientists create the next generation of electronic devices and microchips.
The researchers used theoretical computer modeling to design the new material they called graphone, derived from graphene. (Check out this recent CTT blog post for a video of scientists making graphene out of graphite.)
The ability to make graphene magnetic adds to its potential for novel applications in spintronics. Spintronics are a family of memory and data processing devices that exploit electron spin.
Although graphene’s properties can be significantly modified by introducing defects and by saturating with hydrogen, it has been very difficult for scientists to manipulate the structure to make it magnetic.
“The new material we are predicting – graphone – makes graphene magnetic simply by controlling the amount of hydrogen coverage – basically, how much hydrogen is put on graphene. It avoids previous difficulties associated with the synthesis of magnetic graphene,” said Puru Jena, distinguished professor in the VCU Department of Physics.
“One of the important impacts of this research is that semi-hydrogenation provides us a very unique way to tailor magnetism. The resulting ferromagnetic graphone sheet will have unprecedented possibilities for the applications of graphene-based materials,” says Qiang Sun, research associate professor with the VCU team.
A paper on the team’s research appears online in the journal Nano Letters.
Interestingly, VCU announced a few weeks ago that beginning in 2010, it would offer an interdisciplinary doctoral degree program in nanoscience and nanotechnology, making VCU the first major research university in the state to offer such a program, and one of only a handful of programs in the United States.