What's new in science: wonder materials

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By Nina Webb, Biochemistry

Want to charge your phone in 60 seconds? Research contributed to by the University of Bristol means that this may one day not just be wishful thinking.

Advances in conductive nanomaterials mean that we are heading toward an era of 60-second-fast-charging battery technology. Published in Nature, collaborative research by the University of Bristol, UCL, Virginia Commonwealth University and Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne has been fruitful in the production of 2-dimensional phosphorene nanoribbons. Despite countless theoretical studies into their construction, the conception was not intentional, but an unexpected outcome during the attempts to synthesize sheets, rather than ribbons, of phosphorene.

Graphene is a monolayer of graphite in the same way that phosphorene is a single layer of phosphorous. However, the latter is a natural semiconductor, with widely predicted applications in electronics and fast charging battery technology. By engaging existing and novel partnerships in future work, implementing phosphorene nanoribbons in batteries, solar cells, thermoelectric devices, which convert waste heat to electricity, and photocatalysis will be explored.

2D phosphorene nanoribbons
Image credit: University of Bristol Press Office

Bristol’s School of Physics is home to the Interface Analysis Centre, instrumental in the characterization of the unusual and “exotic” properties of the novel materials. The uniform width of the nanoribbons results in their defined electronic character; they are also flexible and usually just one atom layer thick. Where they are thicker, they increase in seamless steps of atoms and split with each monolayer possessing distinct electronic characteristics.

Importantly their production from black phosphorus crystals and lithium ions in liquid is scalable, and performed at low cost, increasing the attractiveness of this material for uses in industry and electronic technology.

Featured Image: Takashi Hososhima / Flickr

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