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A new “miracle material” could finally put an end to the cracked smart phone screen.

Researchers from several institutions— including Queen’s University School of Mathematics and Physics, Stanford University, the University of California, California State University and the National Institute for Materials Science in Japan— have developed a new hybrid device that can conduct electricity at fast speeds, while maintaining a light, durable and easy to manufacture design.

“Our findings show that this new 'miracle material' has similar physical properties to Silicon but it has improved chemical stability, lightness and flexibility, which could potentially be used in smart devices and would be much less likely to break,” Elton Santos, Ph.D., from Queen's University's School of Mathematics and Physics, said in a statement.

“The material also could mean that devices use less energy than before because of the device architecture so could have improved battery life and less electric shocks.”

The majority of smart phones are made with silicon and other compounds that are expensive and break easily. The new material is a combination of the semiconducting molecule C60, which can transform sunlight into electricity with layered materials including graphene and hBN, which provides stability, electronic compatibility and isolation charge to graphene.

Santos initially predicted that the combination of hBN, graphene and C60 would result in a solid with new physical and chemical properties and wanted to test the theory in a collaboration with other scientists.

“It is a sort of a 'dream project' for a theoretician since the accuracy achieved in the experiments remarkably matched what I predicted and this is not normally easy to find,” Santos said. “The model made several assumptions that have proven to be completely right.”

Before this material can be implemented the researchers need to solve the issue with graphene and the new material architecture lack a band gap—which is needed for the on-off switching operations performed by electronic devices.

One solution might be using transition metal dichalcogenides (TMD), which are chemically stable, have large sources for production and band gaps similar to Silicon.

“By using these findings, we have now produced a template but in future we hope to add an additional feature with TMDs,” Santos said. “These are semiconductors, which by-pass the problem of the band gap, so we now have a real transistor on the horizon.”

The study was published in ACS Nano.

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