The first superconducting graphene has been created by Canadian researchers using lithium atom coating.
Adding superconductivity to graphene’s already amazing properties would further expand the potential use of the wonder material, which is widely touted to one day revolutionise the electronics industry. Superconductivity is a phenomenon of exactly zero electrical resistance.
“Decorating monolayer graphene with a layer of lithium atoms enhances the graphene’s electron–phonon coupling to the point where superconductivity can be induced,” said Andrea Damascelli, director of the Quantum Matter Institute at the University of British Columbia, who led the study, published in the latest issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Superconductivity has previously been observed in three-dimensional graphite crystals layered with alkali metal atoms. However, achieving the same effect in the two-dimensional one-atom thick graphene has so far been impossible.
The team, which included scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research, succeeded in the task by embedding lithium atoms into the graphene structure in ultra-high vacuum conditions at temperatures as low as minus 267 °C.
Given the massive scientific and technological interest, the ability to induce superconductivity in single-layer graphene promises to have significant cross-disciplinary impacts. According to financial reports, the global market for graphene reached $9m in 2014 with most sales in the semiconductor, electronics, battery, energy, and composites industries.
Graphene, roughly 200 times stronger than steel, is a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb pattern. The material was first isolated in 2004 by Manchester University researchers Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov.