Scientists have discovered a new ‘miracle material’ with improved chemical stability, lightness, and flexibility, which could be used to make smartphones and other devices that are less likely to break. Currently, most parts of a smartphone are made of silicon and other compounds, which are expensive and break easily, but with almost 1.5 billion smartphones purchased worldwide last year, manufacturers are on the lookout for something more durable and less costly, researchers said. Researchers, including those from Queen’s University Belfast in the UK, found that by combining semiconducting molecules C60 with layered materials, such as graphene and hBN, they could produce a unique material technology, which could revolutionize the concept of smart devices.
The winning combination works because hBN provides stability, electronic compatibility, and isolation charge to graphene while C60 can transform sunlight into electricity. Any smart device made from this combination would benefit from the mix of unique features, which do not exist in materials naturally. This process, which is called van der Waals solids, allows compounds to be brought together and assembled in a pre-defined way. “Our findings show that this new ‘miracle material’ has similar physical properties to Silicon but it has improved chemical stability, lightness, and flexibility, which could potentially be used in smart devices and would be much less likely to break,” said Elton Santos from Queen’s University.
“The material also could mean that devices use less energy than before because of the device architecture so could have improved battery life and less electric shocks,” said Santos. One issue that still needs to be solved is that graphene and the new material architecture is lacking a ‘band gap’, which is the key to the on-off switching operations performed by electronic devices, researchers said. However, the team is already looking at a potential solution – transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs). These are a hot topic at the moment as they are very chemically stable, have large sources for production and band gaps that rival Silicon.