Turns out King Midas was a man ahead of his time. If he’d be born now, he’d be really useful in graphene production. Researchers at the University of Cambridge’s department of engineering have discovered that they can reduce the temperature needed to grow graphene, simply by adding flecks of gold to the nickel film substrate.
Per the University press announcement, the discovery more than halves the temperature at which graphene can be grown, bringing it down from a roasting 1,000ºC to a more manageable 450 ºC.
The reduction in temperature is important because 1,000ºC will damage many of the materials involved in existing electronics manufacturing. This would make it impossible to integrate graphene into circuits destined for the electronics industry. Not so at the chillier 450 ºC.
Gold also blocks graphene’s growth, which leads to higher quality sheets of the two dimensional material. This is because the graphene starts growing at fewer sites on the nickel film. This allows each flake to grow for longer and become larger before it joins up with another flake, and fewer joins means better conductivity.
"Only once we’d developed a detailed picture of how the graphene was growing were we able to start tuning that growth and rationally engineering the catalyst – the nickel – to improve it," lead researcher Robert Weatherup said.
"Understanding this is interesting from a scientific point of view, but using this knowledge to improve the growth process has been the really useful outcome of our work."
The work has been published in new issue of journal, Nano-letters.