Skip to Navigation

New Boron Nanomaterial May be Possible

January 27, 2014
Unlocking the secrets of the B36 cluster

A 36-atom cluster of boron, left, arranged as a flat disc with a hexagonal hole in the middle, fits the theoretical requirements for making a one-atom-thick boron sheet, right, a theoretical nanomaterial dubbed “borophene.” Credit: Wang lab/Brown University

Graphene, a sheet of carbon one atom thick, may soon have a new nanomaterial partner. In the lab and on supercomputers, chemists, including doctoral students in Chemistry, Wei-Li Li and Zachary Piazza have determined that a unique arrangement of 36 boron atoms in a flat disc with a hexagonal hole in the middle may be the preferred building blocks for “borophene.” Findings are reported in Nature Communications. Lai-Sheng Wang, professor of Chemistry led the experiments with Li and Piazza.

Graphene has been heralded as a wonder material. Made of a single layer of carbon atoms in a honeycomb arrangement, graphene is stronger pound-for-pound than steel and conducts electricity better than copper. Since the discovery of graphene, scientists have wondered if boron, carbon’s neighbor on the periodic table, could also be arranged in single-atom sheets. Theoretical work suggested it was possible, but the atoms would need to be in a very particular arrangement.

Boron has one fewer electron than carbon and as a result can’t form the honeycomb lattice that makes up graphene. For boron to form a single-atom layer, theorists suggested that the atoms must be arranged in a triangular lattice with hexagonal vacancies — holes — in the lattice.

“That was the prediction,” said Wang, “but nobody had made anything to show that’s the case.”

Read more of Kevin Stacey's article about new boron nonmaterial.