Australian researchers have used liquid metal to synthesize a two-dimensional material that’s never been seen before in nature.
The working principle of liquid metals calls to mind the famous T-1000 terminator robot in the movie Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Skynet’s liquid killer robot that was able to regenerate itself and shapeshift.
Due to their properties (very low melting point, excellent conductivity, and ultra-high malleability), liquid metal alloys have wide-ranging applications: medicine (implantable and less invasive devices), research, robotics (self-powered engines), biomaterials, electronics, and even sports equipment.
Flex circuits, or flexible electronics, have been the subject of intense research in recent years. Forget silicone–it’s as brittle as glass. There are other slightly malleable materials found in electronics such as copper, however, it lacks elasticity. In come liquid metals.
The “Once-in-a-Decade Discovery” of a Unique 2D Material
Researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne have been studying liquid metals for years.
Last year they developed revolutionary techniques that allow liquid metals to self-propel and even reorganize autonomously. This makes it possible to manufacture flexible and fluid electronic components that can be modified and reconfigured endlessly.Researchers create a unique 2D material like no other.Click To Tweet
This time, RMIT researchers came back with another impressive accomplishment, hailed as a “once-in-a-decade discovery” that will revolutionize electronics and chemistry.
Researchers, led by Professor Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh and Dr. Torben Daeneke from RMIT’s School of Engineering, used a liquid metal to create a 2D material just a few atoms thick, as reported by Science Magazine, entitled, “Expanding the world of 2D materials“.
“When you write with a pencil, the graphite leaves very thin flakes called graphene, that can be easily extracted because they are naturally occurring layered structures. But what happens if these materials don’t exist naturally?” said Daeneke. “Here we found an extraordinary, yet very simple method to create atomically thin flakes of materials that don’t naturally exist as layered structures.”
Researchers dissolved metals (non-toxic alloys of gallium) in liquid metal to create very thin oxide layers that can be peeled away easily, by liquid metal with a smooth surface.
Daeneke said that the process is as cheap and simple as “frothing milk when making a cappuccino”.
These oxide layers can be used to create very thin components that would make electronics and optical devices be much faster and more energy efficient.