News Release 

Graphene is 3D as well as 2D

Queen Mary University of London

Graphene is actually a 3D material as well as a 2D material, according to a new study from Queen Mary University of London.

Realising that it is a 3D material is important for understanding its mechanical properties and for developing novel graphene-based devices.

Often hailed as a 'wonder material', graphene has the highest known thermal and electrical conductivity, is stronger than steel, light, flexible and transparent. Its uses are wide-ranging and recently it has been shown it could even act as a barrier against mosquito bites.

In this study, published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the researchers asked two fundamental questions: to what extent is graphene graphite, and what is the true thickness of graphene?

To their surprise, they found that 2D graphene, which is a flat single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb structure, has many of the same mechanical properties as 3D graphite, which is a naturally occurring form of carbon made up from a very weak stack of many layers of graphene.

They show that graphene shares a similar resistance to compression as graphite and that it is significantly thicker than is widely believed.

If the thickness of a block of graphite 100 layers thick is measured, the thickness of a single graphene layer is simply the thickness of the graphene block divided by 100. Therefore, it is reasonable to consider the thickness of graphene as 0.34 nm.

Dr Yiwei Sun, lead author of the study from Queen Mary University of London, said: "Graphene owes its thickness to an array of chemical bonds sticking out above and below the 2D plane of carbon atoms. Hence graphene is really a 3D material, albeit with a very small thickness.

"By applying conventional 3D theory, which has been used for around 400 years, to 2D materials such as graphene, which have been known for 15 years, we show that similar arguments apply to other so-called 2D materials, such as boron nitride and molybdenum disulphide. In that sense, 2D materials are actually all 3D."

Graphene is often called the world's first two-dimensional material. It was discovered in 2004 by peeling off graphene flakes from bulk graphite (used in pencil leads and lubricants) using sticky tape.

It is regarded as part of a new class of 2D materials and it is currently modelled by scientists as a sheet of atoms with very little depth, hence the name 2D material.

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  • Research paper: '3D strain in 2D materials: to what extent is monolayer graphene graphite?'. Y. W. Sun, W. Liu, I. Hernandez, J. Gonzalez, F. Rodriguez, D. J. Dunstan, and C. J. Humphreys. Physical Review Letters.
  • For a copy of the paper please contact below.

Contact:

Rupert Marquand
PR Officer
Queen Mary University of London
r.marquand@qmul.ac.uk
Tel: 020 7882 3004

About Queen Mary

Queen Mary University of London is a research-intensive university that connects minds worldwide. A member of the prestigious Russell Group, we work across the humanities and social sciences, medicine and dentistry, and science and engineering, with inspirational teaching directly informed by our world-leading research. In the most recent Research Excellence Framework we were ranked 5th in the country for the proportion of research outputs that were world-leading or internationally excellent. We have over 25,000 students and offer more than 240 degree programmes. Our reputation for excellent teaching was rewarded with silver in the most recent Teaching Excellence Framework.

Queen Mary has a proud and distinctive history built on four historic institutions stretching back to 1785 and beyond. Common to each of these institutions - the London Hospital Medical College, St Bartholomew's Medical College, Westfield College and Queen Mary College - was the vision to provide hope and opportunity for the less privileged or otherwise under-represented.

Today, Queen Mary University of London remains true to that belief in opening the doors of opportunity for anyone with the potential to succeed and helping to build a future we can all be proud of.

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