Friday, 6 September 2013

Graphene- One Carbon Thick

This carbon flatland is one wonder material. Graphene is a two-dimensional sheet of crystalline carbon just one atom thick; it is the 'mother' of all carbon-based structures: the graphite in pencils, carbon nanotubes and even buckminsterfullerene. The behaviour of electrons in the honey comb lattice as massless Dirac fermions gives graphene its unique properties. One signature effect of graphene is its distinct Hall effect, in the original Hall effect, an electric current (in the presence of a transverse magnetic field) causes a decrease in potential perpendicular to both the current and magnetic field. Near absolute zero, the Hall resistivity (ratio of decrease in potential to current flowing) in a 2-D electron gas becomes discrete (or quantised), taking integer values h/ne^2. But in graphene, a Berry phase means that the Hall resistivity is only quantised as odd integers (π), hence if you spin the wave-function of the Dirac fermions in graphene (about a circle), there is no symmetry and the state ends up in a different phase then what it began with. Moreover, the quantum Hall effect in graphene can occur at room temp. and can distinguish between layers (due to cyclotron energy of electrons). Graphene could give insight into relativistic effects on the bench-top, since the velocity of light for Dirac fermions is 300 times less in graphene, it should have a larger value for its fine structure constant (around 2). Zitterbewegung (the jerky motion that arises when its impossible to locate the wave function of a relativistic particle) is yet another frontier for graphene, the path of a relativistic electron jitters when it interacts with a positron. This type of motion occurs too quickly to be observed directly in materials like solids but when Dirac fermions are restricted to graphene sheets, they can be interpreted as mixing of states.

The Klein paradox in QED is when a potential barrier allows relativistic particles to move through freely, yet the probability that an electron tunnels through decreases at an exponential rate with the height of the barrier. Paradoxical enough, the probability for relativistic particles increases with barrier height (since a potential barrier that acts to repel electrons will also attract positrons). Chiral symmetry breaking may also be illuminated by graphene; in graphene the right and left-handed fermions behave the same unlike neutrinos which are strictly left-handed. But graphene is too conductive and to lower its conductivity we can take advantage of carbon's adaptability. In diamonds, each carbon is bound to four others (involving all electrons) in contrast to graphene, where one electron is left over (making it a good conductor). The most basic way of achieving this is to add a hydrogen (just like conversion of ethane to ethane) to make graphene into graphane. The σ-electrons that bind carbon atoms in graphene make a band structure with an energy gap between the final occupied and vacant states. But the delocalised π-electrons cause fully occupied and vacant bands to touch one another. In graphane, the π-electrons are strongly attached to hydrogen atoms, making an energy gap between the lowest vacant band and the highest occupied band. Bizarrely, annealing causes the hydrogen to disperse leaving the graphene backbone whole.

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