Electronics are getting smaller and smaller, flirting with new devices at the atomic scale. However, many scientists predict that the shrinking of our technology is reaching an end. Without an alternative to silicon-based technologies, the miniaturization of our electronics will stop. One promising alternative is graphene — the thinnest material known to man. Pure graphene is not a semiconductor, but it can be altered to display exceptional electrical behavior. Finding the best graphene-based nanomaterials could usher in a new era of nanoelectronics, optics, and spintronics (an emerging technology that uses the spin of electrons to store and process information in exceptionally small electronics).
Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have used the capabilities of one of the world’s most powerful university-based supercomputers, the Rensselaer Computational Center for Nanotechnology Innovations (CCNI), to uncover the properties of a promising form of graphene, known as graphene nanowiggles. What they found was that graphitic nanoribbons can be segmented into several different surface structures called nanowiggles. Each of these structures produces highly different magnetic and conductive properties. The findings provide a blueprint that scientists can use to literally pick and choose a graphene nanostructure that is tuned and customized for a different task or device. The work provides an important base of knowledge on these highly useful nanomaterials.