back to article Super-thin materials could POWER our WORLD

Oxford and Dublin boffins have unlocked a doorway leading to more than 150 super-thin exotic nanosheet materials just one atom thick. The names sound like a chemist's molecular roll call: boron nitride (BN), molybdenum disulphide (MoS2), and bismuth telluride (Bi2Te3). None of these compounds are new – but single-atom-thick* …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    @ Chris

    "Where's WikiLeaks when you need it?"

    I realize that you said this with your tongue in your cheek, but do you realize that you're advocating the theft of someone's ip?

    Sorry, but I do have to flame El Reg over this 'freetard' mentality.

    And yes, its Monday morning and I still need my fill of coffee...

    1. copsewood

      copyright == legislated monopoly

      El Reg obviously likes liberal copyright (or tongue in cheek copyright evasion) in its upstream research sources but enforced copyright preventing evasion in its downstream output. This is an instance of how in general, everyone likes competition amongst their suppliers but hates competition affecting the market for their own products. It's a universal human trait, otherwise known as hypocrisy.

      We can analyse much rent seeking behaviour in similar terms.

      1. LaeMing


        ...whether you are producing patented material commercially or for personal use too - the latter may not be illegal, depending where you live.

    2. Justin 15

      The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

      It is not possible to 'steal' IP. Therefore there as no such thing as theft of IP.

      It is, however, possible to be in breach of IP laws. Which is NOT the same as theft/stealing.

  2. handle



    1. M man

      The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

      where energy is stored as electircal potential not chemical.

      meaning you dont have to wait for the chemical reation, you just let the energy out.

      1. batfastad
        Jobs Horns


        So like a capacitor then?

      2. Captain Save-a-ho

        @M man

        I think the question wasn't on what is a "capacitor", but the likely confusion over the newly coined "capacitator" (whatever that is).

        1. Elmer Phud

          What's in a name?

          Though used incorrectly a capacitor can become an incapacitator

    2. Mediocrates


      From the 1980 movie Flash Gordon. War Rocket Ajax had them as part of it's armament.

  3. Simon Barnes

    super-capacitators ?

    super condensers surely ??

    1. nyelvmark

      caution: non-technical article

      No, I think "capacitator" would have to translate as "condenserer". As to how a capacitor is to provide energy, that's another matter - you might wonder where the power comes from in the first place, mightn't you? Maybe it's from hydrogen.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Powered by governmental mind-control lasers...

        ... harnessed through monomolecular tin foil hats, anyone?

  4. Anonymous Coward

    I must be getting old...

    All I keep thinking after reading this article is annoyance at the use of yank spelling being forced on us.

    ie: Sulfur (my English spell checkers in OpenOffice & Word2003 do not like this either)

    Just because some academic retards thinks its confusing to spell correctly, what will be next; grafite, fysics!

    I cannot help think these are the same sort people who think we should only have one spelling for words that sound like "there".

    To keep this rant reasonably short I found someone else's on the net, should anyone else give a dam:

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Blame the chemists

      The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry standardised the spelling as sulfur in 1990; the Royal Society and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority followed suit in the UK in 1992 and 2000 respectively.

      But in case you're feeling bad, it's a draw; element 13 is officially aluminium; despite what the left bankers say.

  5. TeeCee Gold badge

    "...many hypothetical uses..."

    Seriously sharp swords for easily removing the heads of godless infidels springs immediately to mind.

    The world's first 100 blade razor (You think a baby's arse is smooth? Try this!) can't be far behind......

    1. Matt Gerrish


      Don't give Gillette any more ideas now.

      To be honest, I'm surprised they haven't gotten an old washboard, stuck razors & a handle on it and called it 'Gillette Sensor Max Extreme R2 Awesome!'

  6. Mystic Megabyte


    Well that's a drag! The flying car I ordered in 1963 just arrived today. Now I'm going to have send it back and have ultra-thin capacitators fitted.

  7. Peter Gathercole Silver badge


    Quote: "Oxford and Dublin boffins have unlocked a doorway leading to more than 150 super-thin exotic nanosheet materials just one atom thick" and "boron nitride (BN), molybdenum disulphide (MoS2), and bismuth telluride (Bi2Te3)"

    As these are not pure elements that are being talked about, surely they should be one *molecule* thick, not one *atom* thick, even if they are arranged in a totally planar fashion.

    You would think that the "boffins" would know better. Or maybe they are really just "scientists"!

    1. Steven Knox

      Not necessarily

      If the molecular arrangement is planar, then the materials will be both one molecule thick and one atom thick. I believe this is true of graphene, and may be true of the others.

      1. Chemist

        Re : Not necessarily →

        True. A benzene molecule, for example, is a flat ring with 6 carbons in a plane but is only 1 carbon atom thick

        1. Michael Dunn


          I was taught that the benzene molecule had two conformations - chair and the other one I don't remember the name of both of which would give a 3D object rather than a planar one. Of course, I was taught 60 years ago, so perhaps someone has ironed out the molecule since.

          Yes, I ironed my coat before I came out.

          1. Chemist

            "I was taught that the benzene molecule had two conformations"

            No it's planar - cyclohexane has chair & boat conformers. Benzene has delocalised electrons that convert the bonding from sp3 (tetrahedral) found in alkanes to sp2 ( trigonal) so kinked versus planar. The conformation of benzene was contentious for along time but it's been fixed for many decades. It can be seen in any x-ray derived structure that has a benzene ring or derivative.

            Download the excellent SwissPDB ( Mac & Windows) and get yourself a structure to view.



            I used to wear a white coat but it's been virtual for a while

      2. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Yes, planar

        Graphine is a case of a planar crystalline structure I admit (I did mention planar form), but it is a special case, being just carbon with no other elements present. Looking up molybdenum disulphide (MoS2), and bismuth telluride (Bi2Te3) appear to me to show structures that do not have all of the atoms in the molecule arranged in a plane, especially when in crystalline form.

        Of course, it may be that the boffins have found another way to form the crystals so that all of the atoms line up in a plane.

        α-BN form Boron nitride looks interesting, though.

        1. Chemist

          Re : Yes, planar

          Oh sure, there's plenty to be pedantic about. The real measurement is distance and that's on an atomic scale - in this sense a 'molecule' is meaningless going from a molecular weight of 2 for a hydrogen molecule to essentially anything you like such as billions for polymers.

          This is all about, let's call them pseudo 2D structures, that have an 'average' thickness in the order of (at the most) atom-atom bond lengths.

  8. Jonathan McColl

    RE: I must be getting old...

    No, there was an obvious attempt to Britify the spelling with 'labourious' although I'm unsure what language 'instantiations' comes from.

    [The online dictionaries say it means to give concrete examples of abstract concepts. Providing substance would be to substantiate, so back-formation would give us providing an instance. Ah I see.]

  9. F111F


    Umm, doesn't two dimensions (assuming length and width are the two) mean there is no thickness? And since molecules and even atoms are three-dimensional objects, how can the sheets be two-dimensional?

    Mine's the thick one...

  10. FrancisKing

    How does that work then?

    You can't extract electrical power from heat, only from a temperature gradient.

    That's why in a coal-fired power station, one end is hot (the boiler) and one is cold (river water).

    "In gas-fired power plants, approximately 50 per cent of energy produced is lost as waste heat, while for coal and oil plants the figure is up to 70 per cent ... the development of efficient thermoelectric devices would allow some of this waste heat to be recycled cheaply and easily, something that has been beyond us, up until now."

    The only way to get a temperature gradient across the new gadget is to increase the temperature of the cold end of the power station - so it produces less electricity. I'm feeling a little bit sceptical right now...

    1. LaeMing


      once the big power gradient has turned the turbines, the smaller gradient of the waste vs ambient temperatures is run over each side of the the transducer sheets to extract a second round of energy from it, and so on until the returns diminish too much.

      1. David Pollard

        @ LaeMing

        In heat engines the implications of the Carnot theorem are unavoidable.

        Maximum Efficiency = 1 - T(cold)/T(hot)

        If a secondary heat engine uses the same cold sink as the primary engine had done, then the sink temperature of the primary one will be increased, thus reducing its efficiency. Overall the efficiency is reduced.

        Alternatively, if the secondary heat engine uses additional cooling so that the primary heat engine's sink temperature is unaffected after it is coupled in, then it would generally be better to apply the improved cooling directly to the primary engine.

        There may be inefficient engines in which some otherwise wasted heat can be turned into useful energy (e.g. internal combustion engine exhaust), but the Carnot limit is impossible to beat; and modern gas turbines already run very close to this limit. This is why Francis KIng was dubious.

  11. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    One *molecule* thick would be more appropriate in the case of compounds listed

    *unless* the layers are being shaved off constituent *atomic* layer by layer IE for MoS2 a layer of Sulfur, then Molybdenum, sulfur etc rather than a full MoS2 pair.

    Without reading the full article (I think people have forgotten what summaries are for. Scientific reports are *not* stories. You want the conclusions in the summary) it's hard to tell.

    AFAIK the usual way to do this is a build up method using molecular beam epitaxy inside a large UHV chamber. If this technique could deliver monolayers at near room temperature and pressure and allow them to be deposited on large substrates a lot of interesting possibilities and applications become possible.

    Yes I am being pedantic about the layers but without reading the article it's impossible to say. While I am at it "Capacitator" WTF?

    1. Chemist

      I have the feeling that ..

      The original way of getting monolayers of graphene involved little more than graphite and sellotape

  12. bugalugs
    Thumb Up

    Billions of sheets of trick-stuff

    from 1mg of compound ! I love living in the 21st century !

    1. Chemist

      Not too suprising ..

      Given that there are ~~8e19 carbon atoms in a 1mg of graphene

  13. Yag

    boron nitride...

    Sounds like something I already read of in "Ignition!"

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