Designing an imaginary material

The atoms in the new structure are arranged in a hexagonal pattern as in graphene, but that is where the similarity ends. The three elements forming the new material all have different sizes; the bonds connecting the atoms are also different. As a result, the sides of the hexagons formed by these atoms are unequal, unlike in graphene. Credit: Madhu Menon

Scientists at the University of Kentucky in cooperation with colleagues in Germany and Greece have designed a material on a computer that would result in a one atom thick layer (like graphene) and has both conducting and semiconducting capability (graphene is non conducting but it can become semiconducting by adding drugging atoms...).

The imaginary material (imaginary because it does not exist, so far, in the world of atoms, just in the world of bits) would be made by atoms of silicon, boron and nitrogen forming hexagons (like graphene) with irregular edges (unlike graphene where the six edges of the hexagon are all the same length).

You can read their paper to get more information on this imaginary material.

What draw my attention, and hence this post, is the "imaginary" part. I find amazing that today scientists can rely on computers to simulate materials and study their properties.

Not all atoms can be placed together to form a material, nor can they be assembled into a one atom thick layer. The forces that drive atoms to stick one another in a specific form are quite complex to calculate and their effects spread throughout the material making the computation mind-boggling. Just three decades ago we did not have such a processing capability, not even in a supercomputer. Two decades ago we started to have the processing power needed in supercomputers but of course very few people had access to it. Nowadays scientists have access to this processing power on their desk.

Author - Roberto Saracco

© 2010-2018 EIT Digital IVZW. All rights reserved. Legal notice. Privacy Policy.