Graphene has been touted as a way too make thin flexible displays, but much of the work has focused on its use as a replacement for Indium tin Oxide (ITO). I wrote about its prospects last year and the conclusion that graphene may be a niche player, if development is quick, otherwise a dead duck.
But far from being a dead duck graphene has risen Lazarus like with some new research showing that by building heterostructures – stacked layers of various 2D materials including graphene – a new generation of optoelectronic devices is being enabled. The headline “Semi-transparent, flexible electronics are no longer just science-fiction thanks to graphene’s unique properties” will spawn a rash of images of Tom Cruise in the 2002 movie Minority Report but the implications are broader than that.
Graphene is not the only two dimensional material, just the best known. Others include silicene, phosphorene, borophene, molybdenum disulphide, tungsten diselenide, stanene, graphyne and germanane, but all are rather further behind in commercialisation and no one is planning to make them by the tonne, yet. What is really exciting is that these can be combined together in stacks to create materials with differing properties such as LEDs, lasers and sensors, and these stacks should be thin enough to be optically transparent. Rather than having to bully graphene into doing amazing things, there is now a whole new atomic scale tool box to play with.