DOE News
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    The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
    • 2017-10-23 00:00:55
    • Article ID: 683379

    Taming ‘Wild’ Electrons in Graphene

    Discovery could lead to novel electronic devices

    • Credit: Yuhang Jiang/Rutgers University-New Brunswick

      A sharp tip creates a force field that can trap electrons in graphene or modify their trajectories, similar to the effect a lens has on light rays.

    Graphene – a one-atom-thick layer of the stuff in pencils – is a better conductor than copper and is very promising for electronic devices, but with one catch: Electrons that move through it can’t be stopped.

    Until now, that is. Scientists at Rutgers University-New Brunswick have learned how to tame the unruly electrons in graphene, paving the way for the ultra-fast transport of electrons with low loss of energy in novel systems. Their study was published online in Nature Nanotechnology.

    “This shows we can electrically control the electrons in graphene,” said Eva Y. Andrei, Board of Governors professor in Rutgers’ Department of Physics and Astronomy in the School of Arts and Sciences and the study’s senior author. “In the past, we couldn’t do it. This is the reason people thought that one could not make devices like transistors that require switching with graphene, because their electrons run wild.”

    Now it may become possible to realize a graphene nano-scale transistor, Andrei said. Thus far, graphene electronics components include ultra-fast amplifiers, supercapacitors and ultra-low resistivity wires. The addition of a graphene transistor would be an important step towards an all-graphene electronics platform. Other graphene-based applications include ultra-sensitive chemical and biological sensors, filters for desalination and water purification. Graphene is also being developed in flat flexible screens, and paintable and printable electronic circuits.

    Graphene is a nano-thin layer of the carbon-based graphite that pencils write with. It is far stronger than steel and a great conductor. But when electrons move through it, they do so in straight lines and their high velocity does not change. “If they hit a barrier, they can’t turn back, so they have to go through it,” Andrei said. “People have been looking at how to control or tame these electrons.”

    Her team managed to tame these wild electrons by sending voltage through a high-tech microscope with an extremely sharp tip, also the size of one atom. They created what resembles an optical system by sending voltage through a scanning tunneling microscope, which offers 3-D views of surfaces at the atomic scale. The microscope’s sharp tip creates a force field that traps electrons in graphene or modifies their trajectories, similar to the effect a lens has on light rays. Electrons can easily be trapped and released, providing an efficient on-off switching mechanism, according to Andrei.

    “You can trap electrons without making holes in the graphene,” she said. “If you change the voltage, you can release the electrons. So you can catch them and let them go at will.”

    The next step would be to scale up by putting extremely thin wires, called nanowires, on top of graphene and controlling the electrons with voltages, she said.

    The study’s co-lead authors are Yuhang Jiang and Jinhai Mao, Rutgers postdoctoral fellows, and a graduate student at Universiteit Antwerpen in Belgium. The other Rutgers co-author is Guohong Li, a research associate.

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    ORNL story Tips: Mining for COVID, rules to grow by and the 3D connection


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    Renowned scientist to head new research for plasma applications in industry and quantum information science

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    Graduate student at PPPL Ian Ochs wins top Princeton University fellowship

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    U.S. Department of Energy's INCITE program seeks proposals for 2021

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    The INCITE program is now seeking proposals for high-impact, computationally intensive research projects that require the power and scale of DOE's leadership-class supercomputers.

    Argonne's Paul Dickman honored with nuclear waste management achievement award

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    Paul Dickman has been named a Waste Management Symposium Fellow for 2020.

    Using Fiber Optics to Advance Safe and Renewable Energy

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    Fiber optic cables, it turns out, can be incredibly useful scientific sensors. Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have studied them for use in carbon sequestration, groundwater mapping, earthquake detection, and monitoring of Arctic permafrost thaw. Now they have been awarded new grants to develop fiber optics for two novel uses: monitoring offshore wind operations and underground natural gas storage.

    Brookhaven Lab's Lijun Wu Receives 2020 Chuck Fiori Award

    Brookhaven Lab's Lijun Wu Receives 2020 Chuck Fiori Award

    For the past 20 years, Wu has been advancing quantitative electron diffraction to study batteries, catalysts, and other energy materials.


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    Harvesting Energy from Light using Bio-inspired Artificial Cells

    Harvesting Energy from Light using Bio-inspired Artificial Cells

    Scientists designed and connected two different artificial cells to each other to produce molecules called ATP (adenosine triphosphate).

    Engineering Living Scaffolds for Building Materials

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    Bone and mollusk shells are composite systems that combine living cells and inorganic components. This allows them to regenerate and change structure while also being very strong and durable. Borrowing from this amazing complexity, researchers have been exploring a new class of materials called engineered living materials (ELMs).

    Excavating Quantum Information Buried in Noise

    Excavating Quantum Information Buried in Noise

    Researchers developed two new methods to assess and remove error in how scientists measure quantum systems. By reducing quantum "noise" - uncertainty inherent to quantum processes - these new methods improve accuracy and precision.

    How Electrons Move in a Catastrophe

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    Lanthanum strontium manganite (LSMO) is a widely applicable material, from magnetic tunnel junctions to solid oxide fuel cells. However, when it gets thin, its behavior changes for the worse. The reason why was not known. Now, using two theoretical methods, a team determined what happens.

    When Ions and Molecules Cluster

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    How an ion behaves when isolated within an analytical instrument can differ from how it behaves in the environment. Now, Xue-Bin Wang at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory devised a way to bring ions and molecules together in clusters to better discover their properties and predict their behavior.

    Tune in to Tetrahedral Superstructures

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    Shape affects how the particles fit together and, in turn, the resulting material. For the first time, a team observed the self-assembly of nanoparticles with tetrahedral shapes.

    Tracing Interstellar Dust Back to the Solar System's Formation

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    This study is the first to confirm dust particles pre-dating the formation of our solar system. Further study of these materials will enable a deeper understanding of the processes that formed and have since altered them.

    Investigating Materials that Can Go the Distance in Fusion Reactors

    Investigating Materials that Can Go the Distance in Fusion Reactors

    Future fusion reactors will require materials that can withstand extreme operating conditions, including being bombarded by high-energy neutrons at high temperatures. Scientists recently irradiated titanium diboride (TiB2) in the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) to better understand the effects of fusion neutrons on performance.

    Better 3-D Imaging of Tumors in the Breast with Less Radiation

    Better 3-D Imaging of Tumors in the Breast with Less Radiation

    In breast cancer screening, an imaging technique based on nuclear medicine is currently being used as a successful secondary screening tool alongside mammography to improve the accuracy of the diagnosis. Now, a team is hoping to improve this imaging technique.

    Microbes are Metabolic Specialists

    Microbes are Metabolic Specialists

    Scientists can use genetic information to measure if microbes in the environment can perform specific ecological roles. Researchers recently analyzed the genomes of over 6,000 microbial species.


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