Breakthrough technique could give us molecule-thick circuit boards


Graphene is incredibly cool stuff: a sheet of interlocking carbon atoms, only one atom thick. It's an extremely interesting material, and a newly pioneered technique has created a way of painting stripes on the graphene sheets to change its functionality.

That representation of an owl you see above was created by adding hydrogen atoms to certain areas of the graphene, transforming it into a graphane superlattice, which is more conductive and suitable for use with organic chemistry where graphene is not.

The researchers discovered a way to strip out those hydrogen atoms and replace them with more carbon, creating an even more functional superlattice — one that could be used for a new generation of microscopic circuitry. The technique allows both spatial and density control, which opens up a raft of possibilities. Similar to microcircuitry, it would be possible to paint circuitboards of sorts on a single sheet of graphene, creating nanoscale electronics, electrical circuits, and chemical sensors. Imagine a blood glucose meter so thin it could be implanted, or a digital camera as thick as a credit card.