European scientists have successfully synthesized germanene, a 2D material dubbed the “cousin of graphene.” It can have impressive optical and electrical properties that could be widely used in the electronics industry. Germanene is a single layer of germanium atoms. Findings of the study were published Wednesday in the New Journal of Physics.
Platinum and gold both can be used to synthesize germanene
Though scientists had first proposed germanene in 2009, its development was delayed. Meanwhile, graphene was developed further, and researchers also synthesized another cousin of graphene called silicene. The method to synthesize germanene is much like silicene. It can be synthesized by depositing germanium atoms onto a substrate in an ultra-high vacuum and under high temperatures.
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Chinese scientists also claim to have synthesized germanene using a platinum substrate. However, the study conducted by European scientists, led by Guy Le Lay of Aix-Marseille University, found that gold also works as a suitable substrate. In fact, using gold is cheaper than platinum and allow the cousin of graphene to be produced on a large scale.
After depositing the germanium atoms on a gold substrate, researchers conducted spectroscopic analysis and Density Functional Theory (DFT) calculations. They confirmed that the synthesized material was in fact germanene. It had the characteristic honeycomb structure that 2D materials have, found researchers after observing it under the scanning tunneling microscope.
Germanene a strong 2D insulator
Scientists said further development will make it possible to grow germanene on thin gold films, which could lead to its commercial production. Germanene’s unique properties make it a strong 2D insulator, especially up to room temperature. Therefore, the material could also be used in quantum computing. Professor Le Lay said they had provided a strong evidence of the birth of a new cousin of graphene, the nearly flat germanene. It does not exist in nature.
Successful synthesis is just the beginning of a long quest, said Le Lay. The next major challenge is to characterize its electronic properties.