For the first time, Stanford engineers have engineered graphene to produce an electrical charge when bent, squeezed or twisted. The advance — the first example of piezoelectricity in a nanoscale material — has the potential to be applied across a range of industries and offer developers a dramatically expanded degree of control in nanotechnology.
By depositing atoms on one side of a grid of graphene — which has been called a ‘wonder material’ for its conductivity, thinness and strength — engineers were able to disrupt the grid’s perfect physical symmetry, which otherwise counters the piezoelectric effect. By selectively placing atoms, researchers were further able to control how graphene responds to electrical fields.
Piezoelectricity is also reversible, offering engineers a greater degree of control over the modified graphene. Just as distorting piezoelectric materials generates electricity, applying an electric field to piezoelectric materials causes those materials to change shapes.
Researchers anticipate future applications for the technique in nanomaterials ranging in use from electronics and photonics to chemical sensing and high-frequency acoustics.
“Piezoelectric graphene could provide an unparalleled degree of electrical, optical or mechanical control for applications ranging from touchscreens to nanoscale transistors,” said Mitchell Ong, a first author of the research paper, to the Stanford Report.
– Marshall Watkins