Move over, graphene: There’s a new two-dimensional wonder material in town.
An international team of scientists successfully extracted hematene from ordinary iron ore.
A mere three atoms thick, hematene is considered to have improved photocatalytic properties.
“The material we synthesized can act as a photocatalyst to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, so that electricity can be generated from hydrogen, for example,” co-author Douglas Soares Galvåo said in a statement, tipping “several other potential applications.”
The study—conducted at the Center for Computational Engineering and Sciences (CCES), one of the Research, Innovation, and Dissemination Centers (RIDCs) funded by the Såo Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP)—was published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.
Hematene, as its name suggests, was culled from hematite—one of the most prevalent minerals on Earth, and a major source of iron.
Through the liquid-phase exfoliation process, researchers are able to create super-slim sheets of the material—perfect for photocatalysis (the acceleration of a chemical reaction when energized by light).
In its original 3D form, hematite absorbs sunlight, but produces a short-lived charge. But when shrunk down to the thickness of three iron and oxygen atoms, Hematene become more efficient; after all, the photons’ negative and positive charges don’t have far to travel.
To improve performance, the team added titanium dioxide nanotube arrays for more visible light absorption.
“Hemetene may be an efficient photocatalyst … and could also serve as an ultrathin magnetic material for spintronic-based devices,” according to Galvão.
Spintronics (or magnetoelectronics) is a new technology used to store, display, and process information.
Perhaps the most famous 2D material, graphene—used to make jackets, control water evaporation, compress light, boost battery power, and even design edible electronics—isn’t the only slenderized ingredient available.
Scientists have created two-dimension sheets of black phosphorus, gallium, molybdenum disulfide (try saying that five times fast), and chromium triiodide, each with a wider range of properties than its 3D structure.
Hematene may have iron-based siblings, as well.
“There are a number of other iron oxides and derivatives thereof that are candidates for originating new 2D materials,” Galvão said.