The superiority of graphene as the hardest, highly flexible and stronger material with superconducting qualities is under challenge after researchers from Rice University simulated a one-dimensional chain of boron atoms.

When stretched, the boron chain shows incredible properties that surpass the top qualities of graphene. The proposed material from boron is still at the simulation level and the 1D boron chains are yet to be created.

But it may happen soon as the success achieved in the synthesis of boron's single atom, fullerene forms, and carbyne, indicate that it is only a matter of time. Fullerene is noted for its buckyball structure. The research has been published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

Incredible Properties

Incredible properties are expected from the boron 1D form including metallic chains that turn into a non-magnetic metal with seamless conductivity at zero resistance.

Adding to the unique properties is the ability to spring back into two-atom ribbons and exert spring force consistently.

Rice University experts who ran the simulations have the track record of successfully simulating many two-dimensional films including borophene and carbyne.

"Our work on carbyne and planar boron got us thinking that a 1D chain of boron atoms is also a possible and intriguing structure," said lead researcher Boris Yakobson.

Chain And Ribbon

One major difference between graphene and the boronic material is the former's two-dimensional nature versus the unidimensional structure of the boron derivative.

The simulated structure showed a unidimensional model of either a chain of single atoms or a ribbon structure with two atoms. Despite the single dimension, in fine details, the boron structure showed a dual form when stretched.

But they cannot be considered different structures at all as they are clearly defined phases of the 1D boron itself.

"Boron is very different from carbon," noted Yakobson adding that the double row of atoms is rendering huge stability just as a truss is doing in a bridge construction.

On stretching the 1D boron, the two-atom ribbon turns into a single-atom chain yet reverts to the old form as pressure goes off.

The properties of the two phases also differ. In the single-atom chain phase, there are semiconductor properties at work while the twin-atom ribbon has hard metal properties and it cannot be deformed.

Calling it an amazing combination, Yakobson described the unique structure as a flexible "Schottky junction" in one-dimension.

Mass Production Of Graphene

Meanwhile, the prospects of graphene's mass production are looking bright and the expensive nature of its production may change.

The new method was developed by Kansas State University scientists when they were attempting to make carbon soot aerosol gel by activating oxygen and acetylene gas with a spark plug.

The "black angel food cake" yield obtained, according to lead researcher Chris Sorensen, was graphene. The discovery has opened up chances of cheaper production of strong materials that are lightweight and strong.

The new method can dispense the hard methods of treating graphite with sulfuric acid, potassium permanganate and sodium nitrate. It also required the mixture being heated to 1,000 degrees Celsius to array the atoms neatly.

The new method is simple with a medium-sized aluminum chamber being used for filling the gaseous mixture and igniting it with a spark plug. It can also produce graphene in big volumes, unlike the milligram yield coming from other methods.

ⓒ 2021 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.