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Hardware Science

Scientists Build Graphene From Scratch, Atom By Atom 185

MrSeb writes "You've heard of 'designer babies,' the idea that you can customize a baby by altering its DNA, but now a team of researchers from Stanford University and the Department of Energy have meddled around with the very fabric of reality and created the very first 'designer electrons.' The bulk of the universe is made up from just a few dozen elements, and each of these elements is made up of just a few subatomic particles: electrons, protons, neutrons, quarks, and so on. For the most part, the properties of every material — its flexibility, strength, conductivity — is governed by the bonds between its constituent atoms, which in turn dictate a molecule's arrangement of electrons. In short, if you can manually move electrons around, you can create different or entirely new materials. That's exactly what Stanford University has done: Using a scanning tunneling microscope, the team of researchers placed individual carbon monoxide molecules on a clean sheet of copper to create 'molecular graphene' — an entirely new substance that definitely isn't graphene, but with electrons that act a lot like graphene (abstract). It is now possible, then, for scientists to create entirely new materials or tweak existing materials — like silicon or copper, or another important element — to make them stronger or more conductive. Where will this particular avenue lead us?"
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Scientists Build Graphene From Scratch, Atom By Atom

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  • by Kawahee ( 901497 ) on Saturday March 17, 2012 @08:14PM (#39392435) Homepage Journal

    Where will this particular avenue lead us?

    Space Elevators.

  • by mosb1000 ( 710161 ) <> on Saturday March 17, 2012 @08:22PM (#39392483)

    Room temperature superconductors.

  • FRIB (Score:5, Interesting)

    by quetwo ( 1203948 ) on Saturday March 17, 2012 @08:50PM (#39392615) Homepage

    Too bad the government is canceling most of the funding that is going towards moving this type of research forward. The FRIB (Federal Rare Isotopes Beam) project, currently under construction in Michigan had most of its funding cut for the budget this coming year. Congress is claiming that the research is better done in France with the current accelerator (which will be half-way through its useful life when the FRIB is expected to go online).

    But hey, why spend money on furthering science and building your ability to be a "thinking" country (we've already given up the ability to be a "making" country), when you can give it to people who just gamble it on the markets and push money around?

  • by JSBiff ( 87824 ) on Saturday March 17, 2012 @11:06PM (#39393119) Journal

    Alchemy happens when you change the nucleus of the atom, not the electrons. For example, in a nuclear reactor when you split Uranium or Plutonium and create entirely different daughter atoms which different numbers of protons in the nucleus than the parent had. Or, in fusion when you combine two nuclei into a single daughter nucleus.

    Simply arranging atoms without changing what element they are, would not really be alchemy as the term is generally understood.

Don't tell me how hard you work. Tell me how much you get done. -- James J. Ling