Borophene (derived from boron) is stronger and more flexible than graphene, and has a high electronic conductance, making it an excellent material for sensors, batteries, and other applications. (Image credit: James L. Marshall via Wikipedia)


It wasn’t that long ago when graphene was turning heads in all areas of industry for its unusual properties- it’s incredibly strong, conducts heat and electricity with ease, and can be formed into many different structures (nanotubes, balls, lattice, etc.). The key behind graphene is that it’s created in a single layer of atoms, and scientists can now do that same trick with boron, turning it into another 1-atom thick super-material- borophene.


While borophene was predicted back in the 1990s using computer simulations to show how it could be formed into a single layer, it wasn’t synthesized until 2015. The process uses chemical vapor disposition using heat to transform boron into a gas, which then condenses into a pool of atoms on a substrate of pure silver or gold. The precious metals force the boron atoms to form a similar arrangement as their own each binding to as many as six other molecules to form a hexagonal structure. Boron on the other hand, only attracts four or five atoms, leaving vacancies in their structure, which gives borophene it’s unique characteristics.


Researchers from Xiamen University in China are looking into what applications can be utilized with this relatively new material. It turns out, borophene is stronger than graphene and more flexible, as well as a great conductor of both heat and electricity, and it superconducts. What’s more, its properties vary with the orientation of the atoms, making the material tunable. It’s also incredibly light and reactive, making it an excellent option for boosting the efficiency of rechargeable batteries.


Another great application would be in hydrogen storage, as studies have proven that borophene can store more than 15% of its weight in hydrogen, as well as separate water into hydrogen and oxygen ions. The researchers speculate that borophene could be used to create exotic sensors, in the same fashion as graphene. Like graphene though, more work is needed before the material can be utilized, including making the material in large quantities, and its reactivity leaves it open to oxidation fairly quickly.


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