Chemists in Germany have created defect-free graphene from graphite for the first time ever.

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Graphene, consisting of a layer of carbon atoms, has the potential to be used in a wide range of emerging technologies. Graphene’s use in the semiconductor industry is affected by the size, area and number of defects currently created during synthesis.

Professor Andreas Hirsch, the man behind the breakthrough, had this to say about it: “This discovery is a breakthrough for experts in the international field of reductive graphene synthesis. Based on this discovery we can expect to see major advancements in terms of the applications of this type of graphene which is produced using wet chemical exfoliation. An example could be cutting defect-free graphene for semiconductor or sensor technology.”

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The team, from Germany, discovered that using benzonitrile during production allows for defect –free graphene to be produced from graphite. This efficient and low-cost process also allows the number of charge carriers to be controlled during synthesis, meaning specific electronic properties can be set.

Graphene is commonly produced by chemically exfoliating graphite. A process where metal ions are embedded in graphite, creating an intercalation compound. The stabilised graphene is the separated from the solvent and reoxidised. During this process, defects can occur through the hydration and oxidation of carbon atoms, adding benzonitrile prevents this.

The reduced benzonitrile molecule that is formed during the reaction turns red if it doesn’t come into contact with oxygen or water. This then allows the number of charge carriers to be determined using absorption measurements, usually this is achieved by measuring voltage.

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