University of Manchester scientists have created a new substance with thousands of potential applications, from a replacement for Teflon to electronic devices.
Professor Andre Geim - one of the winners of this year's Nobel Prize for Physics for his discovery of graphene – has now modified it to make fluorographene.
This is fully-fluorinated graphene and, basically, a two-dimensional crystal version of Teflon, which is itself a fully-fluorinated chain of carbon atoms. It shares Teflon's properties, including chemical inertness, thermal stability and strength. It's the thinnest insulator ever discovered.
The obviousl application is as a thinner, lighter version of Teflon, but the team says it could also find many applications in electronics, such as new types of LED devices.
"We plan to use fluorographene an ultra-thin tunnel barrier for development of light-emitting devices and diodes," says Rahul Nair, who led the research.
"More mundane uses can be everywhere Teflon is currently used, as an ultra-thin protective coating, or as a filler for composite materials if one needs to retain the mechanical strength of graphene but avoid any electrical conductivity or optical opacity of a composite."
Industrial-scale production of fluorographene shouldn't be a problem, says the team, as it would involve following the same steps as mass production of graphene.
The the next big step is to make proof-of-concept devices and demonstrate various applications.
"There is no point in using it just as a substitute for Teflon," says Professor Geim. "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."