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Recently, graphene has been dethroned as the ‘thinnest and strongest’ by a whole new material – right here in India.The thinner a material gets, our intuition signals that the material will be weaker and easily breakable. But your intuition will be proved wrong if you come across graphene.Graphene was the world’s first ‘thinnest and strongest’ material, extracted from graphite in 2004. Graphite is a common form of carbon, commonly used in pencils. So when you draw with a pencil, you’re laying down thin layers of graphite. If you were to peel these away, layer by layer, you’d end up with a trace just thick as one atom. And that’s graphene.In the field of nanomaterial, research into graphene has yielded some interesting results, as such nanomaterials possess unique properties. Graphene, for instance, is 200 times stronger than steel though it is just one atom thick.However, recently graphene has been dethroned as the ‘thinnest and strongest’ by a whole new material – right here in India.
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The nanosheets synthesized by researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar, using Magnesium diboride – a compound of boron – represent a two-dimensional material that is even thinner than graphene. Such a material can find a range of applications from next-generation batteries to ultraviolet absorbing films.Boron has been a prime field of study for nanotechnology researchers because of its numerous unique properties like it’s low density, high mechanical strength, lighter weight, high thermal resistance, high melting point, ability to absorb neutrons, and high resistance to chemical attacks.The nanosheets developed by researchers are made of boron atoms arranged in the shape of a honeycomb, using a simple method.
“We prepared boron-rich nanosheets by an extremely simple method, which merely involves dissolving a boride compound in water and letting it recrystallize for just the right duration of time,” explained Dr. Kabeer Jasuja of Department of Chemical Engineering, IIT Gandhinagar, while speaking to India Science Wire.These sheets have a range of uses.
For example, the ability of these boron-based nanostructures to only absorb UV radiation makes them ideal candidates for developing transparent UV absorbing films. Also these functionalized magnesium boride nanostructures can release energy in proper conditions enabling them to be engineered as hydrogen storage materials.“The rich chemistry of boron is expected to make these nanosheets useful for not only storing energy but also for generating energy in a green way. We are now working towards utilizing these nanosheets for developing the next generation batteries and nanocatalysts” added Jasuja.
The study was funded under the Fast Track Research Grant for Young Scientists of given by Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), the INSPIRE Faculty Award Research Grant by Department of Science and Technology, and the seed funding from IIT Gandhinagar.With this ground-breaking discovery, new possible inventions can be conjured which can contribute to the betterment of not our lives, but of the environment as well.
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