Scientists have long tried to create new allotropes (forms) of carbon because of their versatility and usefulness for the industry. But only limited success was achieved so far. That is set to change now. In a major breakthrough, researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder, US, have successfully synthesised the long-hypothesised “next-generation wonder material” graphyne. An allotrope of carbon, graphyne is similar to graphene, which is highly valued by industry. In fact, the research on graphene was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010. However, scientists were able to create only a few fragments before now, despite decades of work and theorising.
Carbon allotropes like graphene and fullerene were created using traditional chemistry methods. But these methods don’t allow synthesis of different forms of carbon in large capacity, like what’s required for graphyne. Wei Zhang, a professor of chemistry at CU Boulder, then decided to give it a try. Zhang studies reversible chemistry which allows bonds to self-correct, allowing for the creation of novel ordered structures.
Using a process called alkyne metathesis as well as thermodynamics and kinetic control, the researchers were able to successfully create a material that could rival the conductivity of graphene but with control. “There’s a pretty big difference (between graphene and graphyne) but in a good way,” said Zhang. “This could be the next generation of a wonder material. That’s why people are very excited.”
Scientists believe the breakthrough research would open new possibilities for electronics, optics and semiconducting material research. The researchers have published their findings in the journal Nature Synthesis.
“The whole audience, the whole field, is really excited that this long-standing problem, or this imaginary material, is finally getting realized,” Yiming Hu, lead author on the paper and a PhD student in Zhang’s lab group, said in a statement issued by the university. The researchers now want to study this material in detail, including how to create it on a large scale.