These alternating curvy patterns hark back to the ’70s, but they actually show a bird’s-eye view of the terraced surface of an iridium crystal. Each curved region represents a one-atom-thick step of the metal. The regions that have been highlighted orange are where Marin Petrović grew borophene—a layer of boron that’s also just an atom thick, is a great conductor of electricity, and has high mechanical strength. Petrović, a research associate at the Institute of Physics in Zagreb, did this by dissolving a boron-containing gas into the iridium crystal at 1,100 ᵒC and then allowing the whole thing to cool. The boron naturally traveled to the iridium’s surface and formed a monoatomic layer, and after about 20 s, all these terraces were covered in borophene.
Credit: The LEEM/PEEM team at the University of Duisburg-Essen/Marin Petrović. Read the paper in ACS Nano (2021, DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.1c00819).
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