August 14, 2015

Drexel Engineers' Recipe For 'Sandwiching' Atomic Layers Expands Possibilities For Making Materials That Store Energy

Drexel materials researchers have taken the next step in a progression of advances they've
been making in the invention of energy-storage materials. Their new method allows for
two-dimensional layers of disparate elements to be stacked together. This development
will yield a variety of new, durable materials with energy storage capabilities.

(August 14, 2015)  The scientists whose job it is to test the limits of what nature—specifically chemistry— will allow to exist, just set up shop on some new real estate on the Periodic Table. Using a method they invented for joining disparate elemental layers into a stable material with uniform, predictable properties, Drexel University researchers are testing an array of new combinations that may vastly expand the options available to create faster, smaller, more efficient energy storage, advanced electronics and wear-resistant materials.

Led by postdoctoral researcher Babak Anasori, PhD, a team from Drexel’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering created the material-making method, that can sandwich 2-D sheets of elements that otherwise couldn’t be combined in a stable way. And they proved its effectiveness by creating two entirely new, layered two-dimensional materials using molybdenum, titanium and carbon.

Microscopic images reveal the ordered configuration of Drexel's new layered MXene.

“By ‘sandwiching’ one or two atomic layers of a transition metal like titanium, between monoatomic layers of another metal, such as molybdenum, with carbon atoms holding them together, we discovered that a stable material can be produced,” Anasori said. “It was impossible to produce a 2-D material having just three or four molybdenum layers in such structures, but because we added the extra layer of titanium as a connector, we were able to synthesize them.”

The researchers' new method for making two-dimensional materials allows for
combining multiple different layers of elements for the first time.

The discovery, which was recently published in the journal ACS Nano, is significant because it represents a new way of combining elemental materials to form the building blocks of energy storage technology—such as batteries, capacitors and supercapacitors, as well as superstrong composites—like the ones used in phone cases and body armor. Each new combination of atom-thick layers presents new properties and researchers suspect that one, or more, of these new materials will exhibit energy storage and durability properties so disproportional to its size that it could revolutionize technology in the future. 

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