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Germanene: Graphene 'cousin' synthesized, using gold substrate

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Move over, graphene: a European research team just created a new material called germanene, which can serve the same purpose as graphene but even better, with even stronger capabilities.

Graphene is a material made of thin sheets that is considered ideal for many technology products such as batteries. This new competitor, germanene, is made of the element germanium. The material has been in the works since 2009, but the research team developing it only just came up with a solution. The team's findings were published today, September 10, in the New Journal of Physics. A separate research team in China also created a synthetic germanene at roughly the same time; both teams were working independently of each other.

This is not the first proposed alternative to graphene. Last month, in August, a team of researchers published a paper detailing the benefits of a graphene-like material made of hemp.

Germanene is another two-dimensional material like graphene that can be used to store energy and provide other features. Germanene could one day replace graphene in electronic technology, the European research team speculated.

Germanene is constructed by fusing germanium atoms onto a substrate using high temperatures. The Chinese team used a platinum substrate, while the European team used a gold substrate. They discovered that gold could be suitable for use as a substrate almost by accident.

"Following our synthesis of graphene's other cousin, silicene, we thought it natural to try and produce germanene in the same way, by despositing germanium onto a silver substrate," Guy Le Lay, one of the co-authors of the study, said. "This attempt failed, so I decided to switch to a gold substrate, having remembered my old work from my PhD thesis, in which gold was grown onto a germanium substrate. I thought it would be worth trying the other way around."

The researchers used measuring equipment to ensure that the material created from fusing germanium onto a gold substrate was actually germanene. They also used a scanning tunneling microscope to look at the germanene to show that the material they created was 2D.

This discovery is significant because gold substrates would be far cheaper than platinum substrates, which means that the material could be mass produced. Le Lay called the material a "cousin of graphene."

Scientists will continue to work on testing the germanene and perfecting the substance. This study also opens up the possibility of using gold as a substrate for other materials.

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