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Graphene, a one-atom-thick layer of a carbon lattice with a honeycomb structure, has great potential for use in radios, computers, phones and other electronic devices. But applications have been stymied because the semi-metallic graphene, which has a zero band gap, does not function effectively as a semiconductor to amplify or switch electronic signals.

While cutting graphene sheets into nanoscale ribbons can open up a larger band gap and improve function, ‘nanoribbon’ devices often have limited driving currents, and practical devices would require the production of dense arrays of ordered nanoribbons – a process that so far has not been achieved or clearly conceptualized.

But Yu Huang, a professor of materials science and engineering at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, and her research team, in collaboration with UCLA chemistry professor Xiangfeng Duan, may have found a new solution to the challenges of graphene.

In research to be published in the March issue of Nature Nanotechnology (currently available online), Huang’s team reveals the creation of a new graphene nanostructure called graphene nanomesh, or GNM. The new structure is able to open up a band gap in a large sheet of graphene to create a highly uniform, continuous semiconducting thin film that may be processed using standard planar semiconductor processing methods.

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