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    • 2019-10-30 09:50:07
    • Article ID: 721637

    How do you know it’s perfect graphene?

    The answer has been there all along

    • Credit: U.S. Department of Energy, Ames Laboratory

      Ames Laboratory scientists found a paradox in experimental results studying graphene, which indicates the quality of the sample. This discovery could lead to better control over 2D materials fabrication and properties.

    Producing structurally perfect graphene and other 2D materials is the secret to tapping into their potential novel electronic and spintronic properties. But how do we know when graphene, the most widely studied 2D material, is perfect-- a defect-free and uniform layer of atoms?

    Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory have discovered an indicator that reliably demonstrates a sample’s high quality, and it was one that was hiding in plain sight for decades.

    The researchers were investigating samples of graphene using low energy electron diffraction, a technique commonly used in physics to study the crystal structure of the surfaces of solid materials.

    What they found didn’t follow the accepted rules of diffraction.

    “The discovery is a paradox,” said Michael Tringides, a senior scientist at Ames Laboratory who investigates the unique properties of 2D materials and metals grown on graphene, graphite, and other carbon coated surfaces. “Textbook diffraction states that the more flawless a material is, the sharper and clearer the diffraction spots, and imperfect materials have low intensity, broader diffraction spots.”

    But in the case of highly uniform samples of graphene, the diffraction studies not only showed the expected sharp spots, but also a very broad band of diffuse diffraction in the background.

    “That result is not intuitive and very strange,” said Tringides, “but we find this broad diffraction pattern to be an intrinsic feature to graphene, and when you have it, you have very good graphene. This is a good way to quantitatively measure its structural perfection.”

    What’s more, this strange diffraction pattern was present and visible in the last 25 years of graphene research publications, and yet ignored. “It was a big, noticeable phenomena, and reproducible, and we realized it must be extremely important in some way,” said Tringides.

    While more theoretical work is needed to fully explain the experimental findings, the scientists believe the broad diffraction phenomenon is caused by the confinement of graphene electrons within a single layer of atoms. According to the fundamentals of quantum mechanics, because the electron position normal to the layer is precisely known, their wave vector must have a spread, which is transferred to the diffracted electrons. This effect is significant for other types of 2D materials as well. With the continued and growing interest in 2D materials for a variety of applications, improving their structural quality will be the key to promising new technologies, said Tringides.

    “This work provides an important step towards the ability to optimize graphene and other 2D materials precisely, and tailor their properties for specific applications,” he said.

    The research is further discussed in the paper, “Diffraction paradox: An unusually broad diffraction background marks high quality graphene,” authored by S. Chen, M. Horn von Hoegen, P. A. Thiel, and M. C. Tringides; and published in Physical Review B.

    Ames Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science National Laboratory operated by Iowa State University. Ames Laboratory creates innovative materials, technologies and energy solutions. We use our expertise, unique capabilities and interdisciplinary collaborations to solve global problems.

    Ames Laboratory is supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit https://energy.gov/science.

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    Scientists achieve higher precision weak force measurement between protons, neutrons

    Scientists achieve higher precision weak force measurement between protons, neutrons

    Through a one-of-a-kind experiment at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, nuclear physicists have precisely measured the weak interaction between protons and neutrons. The result quantifies the weak force theory as predicted by the Standard Model of Particle Physics.

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    Argonne materials scientist Arturo Gutierrez named 2020 Luminary Honoree by HENAAC

    Argonne materials scientist Arturo Gutierrez named 2020 Luminary Honoree by HENAAC

    Argonne materials scientist Arturo Gutierrez has been recognized by HENAAC, the national organization that honors Hispanic scientists and engineers.

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    Fermilab scientist Vladimir Shiltsev elected to Academia Europaea

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    PPPL physicist Hutch Neilson receives award for decades of leadership on national and international fusion experiments

    PPPL physicist Hutch Neilson receives award for decades of leadership on national and international fusion experiments

    Hutch Neilson, a physicist at PPPL who is head of ITER Projects, has received the 2020 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' (IEEE) Nuclear & Plasma Sciences Society (NPSS) Merit Award for decades of achievements, including collaborations with fusion experiments around the world from the Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X) stellarator in Germany to the international ITER experiment in the south of France.

    Virtual internships for physics students present challenges, build community

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    Argonne cuts ribbon on expanded Materials Engineering Research Facility to enhance nation's future manufacturing competitiveness

    Argonne cuts ribbon on expanded Materials Engineering Research Facility to enhance nation's future manufacturing competitiveness

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    DOE provides $21 million to advance diagnostics on the flagship fusion facility at PPPL

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    New funding will upgrade key diagnostics on the National Spherical Tokamak Experiment-Upgrade, the flagship facility at PPPL.

    Lead Lab Selected for Next-Generation Cosmic Microwave Background Experiment

    Lead Lab Selected for Next-Generation Cosmic Microwave Background Experiment

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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

    When Ions and Molecules Cluster

    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

    Tune in to Tetrahedral Superstructures

    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

    Tracing Interstellar Dust Back to the Solar System's Formation

    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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