Stretching graphene to switch it off

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Science  30 May 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6187, pp. 985
DOI: 10.1126/science.344.6187.985-g

Graphene, which is made up of a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb pattern, has remarkable mechanical and electrical properties, but conducts electricity almost too well. Therefore, researchers are looking for ways to switch off graphene devices more easily. It is known that graphene sometimes develops electronic states in which it doesn't conduct electricity when it is placed on hexagonal boron nitride (hBN), another honeycomb-structured material. Woods et al. now have found that graphene stretches and adapts locally to the underlying hBN lattice so that the atoms of the two lattices lie on top of each other, as long as the angle of orientation of the graphene layer with respect to hBN is not too great. The matched areas probably contribute to the nonconducting states through the homogeneity of their electronic properties.

Nat. Phys. 10.1038/nphys2954 (2014).

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