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Summary:

Researchers were able to grow graphene directly on a silicon wafer, reducing the number of steps it takes to manufacture graphene electronics.

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Graphene manufacturing techniques have come a long way from the early 2000s, when scientists would use tape to laboriously scrape it away from a hunk of pencil lead. A new method published Wednesday in Nature (subscription required) takes inspiration from beetles and tree frogs, whose feet informed researchers how they can more effectively integrate graphene into electronics and other devices.

Graphene, an atom-thick layer of carbon atoms, is renowned for its unmatched strength and conductivity. It is theoretically a great fit for use in electronic chips and solar cells, but researchers need to figure out how to manufacture it reliably in large batches before it is commercially viable.

A researcher at the National University of Singapore Graphene Research Center. Photo courtesy of National University of Singapore

A researcher at the National University of Singapore Graphene Research Center. Photo courtesy of National University of Singapore

In this case, the researchers added it to a silicon wafer, which can be used to make a circuit, among other things. They were able to grow and attach graphene to the wafer in a single step.

The process begins with a layer of copper-based catalyst coating the silicon disc. The catalyst enables graphene to grow, but you don’t want it to stick around after the graphene has formed. So the researchers grew graphene on the catalyst and then used bubbles to adhere it to the disc. Even as the catalyst was removed, the graphene stayed in place, finally adhering to the silicon. Gases injected into the wafer further helped prevent the graphene from splitting from the silicon.

These bubbles were inspired by beetles and tree frogs, whose feet use similar bubbles to stick to submerged leaves. The bubbles form capillary bridges: stretched structures that exert an inward force on both ends, holding them together. It is the same effect that holds a sand castle together.

The current best way to manufacture graphene happens in an oven, where at high temperatures carbon is pulled from the air and deposited on copper in layers of graphene. The technique can yield nice, big sheets of graphene that could soon be manufactured into electronics in large quantities via a method similar to how you print a newspaper. But removing graphene from copper can be extremely difficult, making an alternate method like this one potentially attractive.

The researchers will now focus on growing larger pieces of graphene and extending the technique to other two dimensional materials. They are also working with industry partners to commercialize their method.

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  1. Babu G. Ranganathan Friday, December 13, 2013

    NOT MADE BY NATURE! Just because something exists in nature doesn’t mean it was invented or made by Nature. If all the chemicals necessary to make a cell were left to themselves, “Mother Nature” would have no ability to organize them into a cell. It takes an already existing cell to bring about another cell. The cell exists and reproduces in nature but Nature didn’t invent or design it! Nature didn’t originate the cell or any form of life.

    Natural laws can explain how an airplane or living cell works, but it’s irrational to believe that mere undirected natural laws can bring about an airplane or a cell. Once you have a complete and living cell then the genetic program and biological machinery exist to direct the formation of more cells, but how could the cell have originated naturally when no directing code and mechanisms existed in nature? All of the founders of modern science believed in God. Read my Internet article: HOW FORENSIC SCIENCE REFUTES ATHEISM

    Only evolution within “kinds” is genetically possible (i.e. varieties of dogs, cats, etc.), but not evolution across “kinds” (i.e. from sea sponge to human). How did species survive if their vital tissues, organs, reproductive systems were still evolving? Survival of the fittest would actually have prevented evolution across kinds! Read my Internet article: WAR AMONG EVOLUTIONISTS! (2nd Edition). I discuss: Punctuated Equilibria, “Junk DNA,” genetics, mutations, natural selection, fossils, genetic and biological similarities between species.

    Natural selection doesn’t produce biological traits or variations. It can only “select” from biological variations that are possible and which have survival value. The real issue is what biological variations are possible, not natural selection. Only limited evolution, variations of already existing genes and traits are possible. Nature is mindless and has no ability to design and program entirely new genes for entirely new traits.

    What about genetic and biological similarities between species? Genetic information, like other forms of information, cannot happen by chance, so it is more logical to believe that genetic and biological similarities between all forms of life are due to a common Designer who designed similar functions for similar purposes. It doesn’t mean all forms of life are biologically related! Also, “Junk DNA” isn’t junk. These “non-coding” segments of DNA have recently been found to be vital in regulating gene expression (i.e. when, where, and how genes are expressed). Read my popular Internet article: HOW FORENSIC SCIENCE REFUTES ATHEISM

    Read my popular Internet article, HOW DID MY DNA MAKE ME?

    Visit my newest Internet site: THE SCIENCE SUPPORTING CREATION

    Sincerely,
    Babu G. Ranganathan*
    (B.A. theology/biology)

    Author of popular Internet article, TRADITIONAL DOCTRINE OF HELL EVOLVED FROM GREEK ROOTS

    * I have had the privilege of being recognized in the 24th edition of Marquis “Who’s Who In The East” for my writings on religion and science, and I have given successful lectures (with question and answer time afterwards) defending creation from science before evolutionist science faculty and students at various colleges and universities

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