UA physicists discover the use of pencil lead for electronics
Graphite, more commonly known as pencil lead, could become the next big thing in the quest for smaller and less power-hungry electronics. Graphene -- single sheets of graphite -- is only one atom thick, making it the world's thinnest material. Graphene behaves very different than silicon, the material currently used in semiconductors. Last year, a research team led by UA physicists cleared the first hurdle by identifying boron nitride, a structurally identical but non-conducting material, as a suitable mounting surface for single-atom sheets of graphene. The team also showed that in addition to providing mechanical support, boron nitride improves the electronic properties of graphene by smoothening out fluctuations in the electronic charges. The discovery puts the technology a bit closer to someday being able to actually control the flow of electrons through the graphene.