Graphene concept art

Graphyne, sister material to graphene, created in bulk for the first time

Image credit: Dreamstime

Scientists believe they have finally synthesised a new form of carbon called graphyne, which has some similar properties to renowned 'wonder material' graphene.

Prior to the project by researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder, only a few fragments of graphyne had ever been produced despite decades of work and theorising.

The CU Boulder team believes the material could open brand-new possibilities for electronics, optics and semiconducting material research.

“The whole audience, the whole field, is really excited that this long-standing problem, or this imaginary material, is finally getting realised,” said Yiming Hu, lead author on the paper.

Scientists have long been interested in the construction of new or novel carbon allotropes, or forms of carbon, because of carbon’s versatility in a wide range of applications.

Using traditional chemistry methods, scientists have successfully created various allotropes over the years, including fullerene and graphene.

However, these methods don’t allow for the different types of carbon to be synthesised together in any sort of large capacity which is what is required for graphyne.

Creating graphyne is a “really old, long-standing question, but since the synthetic tools were limited, the interest went down,” Hu said. “We brought out the problem again and used a new tool to solve an old problem that is really important.”

Using a process called alkyne metathesis – an organic reaction that entails the redistribution, or cutting and reforming, of alkyne chemical bonds - as well as thermodynamics and kinetic control, the group was able to successfully create graphyne.

“There’s a pretty big difference [between graphene and graphyne] but in a good way,” said Wei Zhang, head of the lab which worked on the project. “This could be the next-generation wonder material. That’s why people are very excited.”

While the material has been successfully created, the team still wants to look into the particular details of it, including how to create the material on a large scale and how it can be manipulated.

“We are really trying to explore this novel material from multiple dimensions, both experimentally and theoretically, from atomic-level to real devices,” Zhang added.

These efforts, in turn, should aid in figuring out how the material’s electron-conducting and optical properties can be used for industry applications like lithium-ion batteries.

“We hope in the future we can lower the costs and simplify the reaction procedure and then, hopefully, people can really benefit from our research,” said Hu.

Last year, scientists demonstrated a form of graphene-enhanced concrete that achieved significantly better results than traditional materials. 

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