By tinkering with graphene, one of this year’s Nobel Prize winners has developed a flat crystal version of Teflon that could replace and compete with the material in thousands of everyday applications
Professor Andre Geim started with individual graphene molecules and fluorinated each carbon atom using atomic fluorine – the result is fluorographene: a thinner, lighter version of Teflon with the strength of graphene. As well as being used as a protective coating or filler for composite materials, fluorographene could be used in new types of LED devices.
“There is no point in using it just as a substitute for Teflon,” Geim said, “The mix of the incredible properties of graphene and Teflon is so inviting that you do not need to stretch your imagination to think of applications for the two-dimensional Teflon. The challenge is to exploit this uniqueness.”
“Properties of fluorographene are remarkably similar to those of Teflon but this is not a plastic,” said Rahul Nair, a PhD student with Geim, “It is essentially a one-molecule-thick crystal and, similar to its parent, fluorographene is also mechanically strong. This makes a big difference for possible applications.”
It is hoped that material could be used in light-emitting devices and diodes, but Geim believes the electronic quality of fluorographene has to be improved before it could be used in electronic applications. It is a high-quality insulator which does not react with other chemicals and can sustain high temperatures even in air. It is also optically transparent for visible light – unlike graphene – and it’s hoped that the material could be used as a wide gap semiconductor.
The researchers have fluorinated graphene powder and obtained fluorographene paper, and believe industrial scale production of fluorographene would be easy as it involves following the same steps as mass production of graphene.
The next step is to make proof-of-concept devices and demonstrate the various applications of fluorographene.