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Grappling with Graphene

Los Alamos overcomes the key obstacle to manufacturing this wonder material of the future.
October 1, 2017
Graphene surface

Graphene surface from scanning probe microscopy: a probe tip scans across a graphene surface, and a computer reconstructs the positioning of its carbon atoms. On close inspection, each ring has six peaks: carbon atoms arranged in a hexagon.CREDIT: U.S. Army Materiel Command

Flexible thin-film touch screens, spray-on solar cells, batteries and biosensors—all this and more, graphene can do.

Graphene is made from carbon atoms arranged in flat, interconnected hexagonal rings, like chicken wire. Its simple, two-dimensional atomic structure gives it an unusual blend of electrical, mechanical, and optical properties. It is flexible and transparent. It conducts heat and electricity. It has special magnetic properties. And despite being lightweight, it is vastly stronger than steel. But its unique atomic structure is both a blessing and a curse. Because to unleash its tremendous potential, it must first be cheaply and reliably manufactured to be one atom thick and free of defects at the atomic scale. And Los Alamos scientist Enkeleda Dervishi just figured out how to do it.