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Fluorographene, The Thinnest Insulator Yet Discovered, Could Have Green Uses

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Fluorographene is the name of the researchers’ last innovation in one of the latest discovered materials, graphene. For those who don’t know yet, graphene is a one-atom thick sheet of graphite (carbon), the substance that is found in your regular pencil.

Kostya Novoselov and Andre Geim from the University of Manchester, the winners of this year’s Nobel Prize for Physics, found that graphene, otherwise a good thermal and electrical conductor, has quite interesting insulating properties if combined with fluoride.

Its honeycomb structure, having carbon atoms at the vertices and clouds of electrons spread on the top and bottom surfaces, if stuffed with fluorine atoms on every single carbon atom, becomes a very good insulant. Experiments involving the use of hydrogen instead of fluorine have been performed, but they were found to be unstable at high temperatures.

Rahul Raveendran-Nair is a postgraduate researcher at the University of Manchester, says that fluorographene “is the first stoichiometric chemical derivative of graphene and it is a wide-gap semiconductor. Fluorographene is a mechanically strong and chemically and thermally stable compound. Properties of this new material are very similar to Teflon and we call this material 2D Teflon.”

Developing a suitable method for making this 2D Teflon was not simple. “Fluorine is a highly reactive element, and it reacts with all most everything. So the major challenge was to fully fluorinate graphene without damaging the graphene and its supporting substrates. Our fluorination of single-layer graphene membranes on chemically inert support grid and bulk graphene paper at elevated temperature overcomes this technical problem,” explains Raveendran-Nair.

Fluorographene could find uses in organic LEDs, because it is fully transparent to visible light. Displays are also on the list of uses.

Of course, being only at the beginning of a journey towards the perfect insulator in terms of thickness and voltage, the researchers still have a lot to learn about it for embedding it into real life applications. “We hope this can be achieved very soon,” says Raveendran-Nair.

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