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Playing with graphene? All the cool kids are using TIN – atom-thick sheets of stanene

Newest nanomaterial could be perfectly power efficient

Researchers at Stanford have laid down the first atom-thick sheet of tin, and it has the potential to revolutionize electronics thanks to its unique power propagation properties.

The material has been dubbed stanene, a contraction of the Latin word for tin "stannum" and the "ene" suffix used for 2D materials. It does for the metal what boffins have been doing for carbon and other substances for years. The goal for stanene is to build a perfect electrical transmission system without wasted heat, but the new material isn't playing ball.

According to theoretical physics, stanene should allow electrons to travel along its edges without colliding with other electrons and atoms along the way, thus avoiding wasting energy in heat. Given this would happen at room temperature, the material could bring about vastly more efficient electronics.

"I think the work is a significant breakthrough that once again expands the 2D-material universe," said Yuanbo Zhang, a physicist at Fudan University in Shanghai. "It'll be exciting to see how the material lives up to its expectations."

The Stanford team, along with four partner universities in China, vaporized a sample of tin in a vacuum and let the atoms fall on a lattice of bismuth telluride. While the resultant substance looks like stanene, it appears that the base material that it's lying on is interfering with the electron flow.

Nevertheless, the upper surface of the stanene does look exactly like the predictions for its composition, so the team is going to try again using larger amounts of tin and a new substrate.

"It's like going to the Moon," said experienced graphene and germanene producer Guy Le Lay, a physicist at Aix-Marseille University. "The first step is the crucial step."

The findings have been published in the latest issue of Nature Materials. ®

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