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New Process Developed for Thin-Layered Nanomaterials

Jonathan Coleman (Trinity College Dublin)

Physicist Jonathan Coleman led the research team. (Trinity College Dublin)

An international research team has devised a new, yet practical method for creating super-thin layered materials with chemical properties potentially useful to electronics and energy storage technologies. The team from Ireland, U.K., U.S., and Korea published their findings in the 4 February edition of the journal Science (paid subscription required).

Materials built at nanoscale — 1 nanometer = 1 billionth of a meter — often have properties, such as electrical conductivity and heat resistance, far different from their bulk properties. Previous methods of producing materials in nanoscale sheets that can be fashioned into usable products, however, were time consuming, laborious, or of very low yield.

In this research, the scientists invented a method for creating these nanosheets from a range of materials using common solvents and ultrasound, with devices like those used to clean jewelery.  The researchers say the new method is simple, fast, and inexpensive, and could be scaled up to work on an industrial scale.

Their methods involve peeling off layers or flakes of materials using solvents, and blending the materials with suspensions of other nanomaterials or polymer solutions. These suspensions can then be formed into hybrid dispersions or composites, which can be cast into films.

The team, led by physicist Jonathan Coleman (pictured above) of Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, show that with their methods, hybrid nanotube films composed of tungsten disulfide and carbon have high conductivity, with promising thermoelectric properties. They also discovered that nanosheets made from tungsten disulfide and molybdenum disulfide can reinforce standard polymers.

The team’s work can open up many more similar layered materials that have the potential to be metallic, semiconducting, or insulating, depending on their chemical composition and how their atoms are arranged. These new materials are also suited for use in supercapacitors, which can recharge and deliver energy thousands of times faster than standard batteries, such as in batteries needed for electric cars.

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