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MXenes - Atomic-Thin Metal Sheets Now Easier To Make
MXenes (pronounced "max-eens") are atomic-thin sheets of metal (or more generally, two dimensional inorganic compounds) that could have an amazing number of potential applications, like batteries, super-capacitors, biosensors, antennas, optoelectronic devices and more.
(MXenes in scanning electron microscope photo)
The UChicago team discovered new chemical reactions that allow scientists to make MXenes from simple and inexpensive precursors, without the use of hydrofluoric acid. It consists of just one step: mixing several chemicals with whichever metal you wish to make layers of, then heating the mixture at 1,700°F. "Then you open it up and there they are," said Wang.
The easier, less toxic method opens up new avenues for scientists to create and explore new varieties of MXenes for different applications—such as different metal alloys or different ion flavorings. The team tested the method with titanium and zirconium metals, but they think the technique can also be used for many other different combinations.
"These new MXenes are also visually beautiful," Wang added. "They stand up like flowers—which may even make them better for reactions, because the edges are exposed and accessible for ions and molecules to move in between the metal layers."
The authors believe that these materials retain their expected properties better than earlier attempts to create atom-thin sheets through some sort of mechanical cleaving. (See New Materials One Atom Thick Extracted With Micromechanical Cleavage.)
Science fiction authors are eager to make use of extremely thin sheets of metal as well. Consider the metal message sheets from The Menace from Space by John Edwards:
At first glance they thought the cylinder empty, but a closer inspection revealed that there was an inner cylinder of some very thin metal. Withdrawing this, they were surprised to find that it was a rolled-up sheet of a thin, dark metal strange to them. Spreading this out with some difficulty, and holding it down with heavy paper weights, they proceeded to examine a variety of inscriptions with which it was covered.
(The message capsule from 'The Menace From Space' by John Edwards)
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