Atom-thick silicon embedded in polymer

Materials World magazine
10 Mar 2017

Scientists at the Technical University of Munich have developed a stable composite material that can be processed with standard polymer technology.

Like graphene, the two-dimensional honeycomb form of carbon, silicon forms atom-thick networks known as nanosheets. Now, researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), Germany, have embedded these sheets into a polymer for the first time, physically stabilising the nanosheets and protecting them from decay and oxidation.

‘Silicon nanosheets are particularly interesting because today’s information technology builds on silicon and, unlike with graphene, the basic material does not need to be exchanged,’ explains Tobias Helbich from the WACKER Chair for Macromolecular Chemistry at TUM. ‘However, the nanosheets themselves are very delicate and quickly disintegrate when exposed to UV light, which has significantly limited their application thus far.’

The nanosheets could be used in flexible displays, field-effect transistors and, because of silicon’s ability to store lithium ions, are being considered as an anode material for rechargeable batteries.

In fact, colleagues at TUM’s Institute of Nanoelectronics have already built a working photodetector based on the new nanosheets.