New Two-Dimensional Material That’s Never Been Seen in Nature

Once-in-a-decade discovery.

New Two-Dimensional Material That's Never Been Seen in Nature
This image of a liquid metal "slug" and its clear atom-thick "trail" shows the breakthrough in action. When dissolved in a liquid metal core, certain metals leave behind this clear layer of their oxide, which is no thicker than a few atoms and can be peeled away by touching or rolling.

Scientists at RMIT University in Melbourne have made the once-in-a-decade discovery that is expected to revolutionize the way we do chemistry. They have devised a new two-dimensional material- no denser than a few atoms. It is something that was previously unknown to nature.

Dr Torben Daeneke from RMIT’s School of Engineering said, “When you write with a pencil, the graphite leaves very thin flakes called graphene, that can be easily extracted because they are naturally occurring layered structures. But what happens if these materials don’t exist naturally?”

Here we found an extraordinary, yet a very simple method to create atomically thin flakes of materials that don’t naturally exist as layered structures.”

To create the material, scientists dissolved metals in liquid metal to create very thin oxide layers, which previously did not exist as layered structures.

Extracting those oxide layers lead them to use in modern electronics. The thinner the layer is, the faster the electronics with less power consumption. In addition to other things, oxide layers are utilized to make the touch screens on advanced mobile phones.

Daeneke said, “We use non-toxic alloys of gallium (a metal similar to aluminum) as a reaction medium. This covers the surface of the liquid metal with atomically thin oxide layers of the added metal rather than the naturally occurring gallium oxide.”

“This oxide layer can then be exfoliated by simply touching the liquid metal with a smooth surface. Larger quantities of these atomically thin layers can be produced by injecting air into the liquid metal, in a process that is similar to frothing milk when making a cappuccino.”

Professor Kourosh Kalantar-Zadeh said, “the discovery now places previously unseen thin oxide materials into everyday reach, with profound implications for future technologies.”

“The developed technology applies to approximately one-third of the periodic table. Many of these atomically thin oxides are semiconducting or dielectric materials.”

“Semiconducting and dielectric components are the foundation of today’s electronic and optical devices. Working with atomically thin components is expected to lead to better, more energy-efficient electronics. This technological capability has never been accessible before.”