New Virtual Form of Carbon Could Speed Up Electronics

graphyne molecule

Chemists from the College of Science and Technology’s Center for Computational Design of Functional Layered Materials have shown that a relatively new, theoretical two-dimensional form of carbon has the potential to significantly speed up computers and other electronic devices.

Collaborating with researchers at both Northwestern University and the University of Toulouse in France, the Temple scientists jointly published their findings in Nature Communications. The researchers concluded that single hexagon-shaped molecules of α-graphyne conduct electricity at an unprecedented rate. It appears to be 10 times faster than graphene—another new form of carbon that, based on extensive research, has excellent conduction properties.

“The speed of computers depends on how rapidly you can move electrical charges,” says co-author Eric Borguet, professor in the Department of Chemistry. “In that regard, this material has potential, but that ultimately will depend on the ability to actually make it.”

Borguet likened the team approach to the current drug discovery process. University of Toulouse chemists made the molecular fragments of α-graphyne. The Temple researchers utilized a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) to measure how rapidly electricity passes through a single molecule. Northwestern researchers—including Mark A. Ratner, considered one of the fathers of the field of molecular electronics—reproduced the STM results through computer simulations and helped interpret the results.

“By looking at small fragments of new materials to determine their properties, then using scientific extrapolation you can determine what properties new materials might have,” says Borguet. “After identifying molecules with interesting properties, you can then move on to more sophisticated and demanding tests, and scale up the size of the molecular fragments to the macroscopic level”—which is what the researchers intend to do with α-graphyne.

The lead author of the paper, titled "Towards graphyne molecular electronics," was Zhihai Li, a research assistant professor at Temple last year who is now an assistant professor at Ball State University in Indiana. 

The research was funded by, among others, the National Science Foundation; various French entities; and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), which funds the center as part of its Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC) program. Last year, DOE selected Temple as one of just 10 new EFRCs through a four-year, $12 million award. 

In addition to Li, Ratner and Borguet, the paper’s authors include Manuel Smeu, Arnaud Rives, Valérie Maraval and Remi Chauvin.

-Bruce Beans