Stretching super-strong carbyne makes it useful for electronics

carbyne

Graphene, I’m really happy for you, I’mma let you finish, but carbyne could be the strongest material of all time! The one-dimensional chain of carbon atoms has only been made in very small amounts, but researchers believe it could someday be an interesting option over the much-vaunted graphene in electronics and optical applications.

A paper published in the journal Nano Letters showcases a totally new reason to be interested in carbyne: Stretching it just three percent switches it from a conductor to an insulator, meaning electricity is contained instead of flowing freely.

Controlling the flow of electricity is essential for using materials like carbyne and graphene in electronics and solar cells. Graphene naturally lacks the ability to act like a switch, meaning electricity flows through it uncontrollably. Carbyne can control electrons though, and this newest discovery makes it possible to have even finer control over the flow.

Carbyne is made of an atom-thick string of carbon atoms. Photo courtesy of Vasilii Artyukhov/Rice University.

Carbyne is made of an atom-thick string of carbon atoms. Photo courtesy of Vasilii Artyukhov/Rice University.

A team at Rice University made the discovery after seeing hints in its earlier work with carbyne.

“In all previous studies only two possible answers were being considered: either ‘carbyne is semiconducting’ or ‘carbyne is metallic,’ and the conclusion, whichever one, was viewed as sort of a timeless mathematical truth, a static ‘ultimate verdict,'” Rice postdoctoral researcher Vasilii Artyukhov said in a release. “What we realized here is that you can use tension to dynamically go from one regime to the other, which makes it useful on a completely different level.”

Carbyne is still incredibly difficult to make. Researchers have built single strands, but suspect that combining them might cause an explosion. So carbyne electronics would arrive years after graphene makes its way into devices.

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