A team of scientists at Rice University is on the verge of creating a nanomaterial that can challenge the extraordinary features of 2D wondermaterial graphene. Simulating a stretched out 1D boron chain by making use of a computing approach known as density functional theory, the team composed of Vasilii Artyukhov, Mingjie Liu and Boris Yakobson was able to derive a one-dimensional material that seems to exhibit properties which are far from being ordinary.
Technically, 1D boron chains do not exist yet. But, other forms of boron have already been successfully synthesized including carbyne (single-atom thick carbon chains), boron fullerene and borophene (2D boron films). As it happens, the creation of these boron forms were all predicted by the Rice University group. Which makes this latest one — 1D boron chains — quite feasible too.
By pulling at the ends of a simulated 64-atom boron ribbon, the team was able to demonstrate that 1D boron chains can exist on one dimension as a single-atom chain or a two-atom ribbon. When the 1D boron chains are stretched out, they switch from a two-atom ribbon into a single-atom chain. When the tension is released, it switches back to a two-atom ribbon. It is these two phases that make 1D boron special.
As a single-atom chain, 1D boron becomes an antiferromagnetic semiconductor. In simpler terms, it’s a nonmagnetic metallic material that is capable of conducting electricity without any resistance — a superconductor (just like graphene). This will make it great for spintronics, the technology that’s responsible for developing high-performance electronic devices. As a two-atom ribbon, it’s a super-strong metal that cannot be deformed.
As Yakobson describes it, “That makes it an interesting combination: when you stretch it halfway, you may have a portion of ribbon and a portion of chain. Because one of them is metal and the other is a semiconductor, this becomes a one-dimensional, adjustable ‘Schottky junction’.”
A Schottky junction refers to an electron barrier located at the junction of a semiconductor and a metal. It’s typically used as a ‘diode’ to control current so that it only flows in one direction.
If the reversibility of 1D boron chains is proven, the team says we may be looking at a material that’s ideal for nanoscale devices which are capable of generating electric current from movement. Why? Because by being reversible, 1D boron can continually exert force, create movement, and generate electricity.
Everything about 1D boron is still speculative at this point, and maybe a 1D boron chain may never come to be. But with its potentially amazing features, it’s not unreasonable to think that scientists will exert maximum effort to make sure that the world will get to experience its awesomeness.
The research has been published through the Journal of the American Chemical Society.