In many ways, graphene is one of technology’s sickest jokes. The tantalizing promise of cheap to produce, efficient to run materials, that could turn the next page in gadget history has always remained frustratingly out of reach. Now, a new process for creating semiconductors grown on graphene could see the super material commercialized in the next five years. Developed at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, the patented process “bombs” graphene with gallium, which forms droplets, and naturally arranges itself to match graphene’s famous hexagonal pattern.
Then, arsenic is added to the mix, which enters the droplets and crystallizes at the bottom, creating a stalk. After a few minutes of this process the droplets are raised by the desired height. The new process also does away with the need for a (relatively) thick substrate to grow the nanowire on, making it cheaper, more flexible and transparent. The inventors state that this could be used in flexible and efficient solar cells and light emitting diodes.