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Germanium Slims Down To Skinny Layers

Single- and few-layer sheets of germanane could find use in optoelectronic and sensing applications

by Bethany Halford
April 8, 2013 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 91, Issue 14

Credit: ACS Nano
An artist’s depiction of a single layer of germanane.
An artist’s depiction of single layer of germanane.
Credit: ACS Nano
An artist’s depiction of a single layer of germanane.

Graphene and graphane—the single- and few-layer sheets of carbon and hydrocarbon (CH)n, respectively—have been the darlings of materials science in recent years. But now they may have to make way for something bigger and heavier. Researchers have moved two rungs down the periodic table to create similarly slim materials from carbon’s elemental cousin germanium (ACS Nano, DOI: 10.1021/nn4009406). A team at Ohio State University led by Joshua E. Goldberger synthesized multilayered crystals of germanane, or (GeH)n. Bulk germanium is prized for its electronic properties, and theoretical predictions suggest single layers of the stuff could have even more desirable properties. Goldberger and coworkers prepared gram amounts of germanane crystals by treating CaGe2 with hydrochloric acid. They found that the crystal surfaces slowly oxidize in air over the span of five months, whereas underlying layers resist oxidation. Furthermore, the germanane crystals are thermally stable up to 75 °C. The researchers were also able to strip single- and few-layer sheets of germanane off the crystals. “The creation of single-atom-thick two-dimensional derivatives of elements with unique and intriguing properties can be clearly expanded beyond carbon,” Goldberger notes.


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