Research Highlights

Nature 463, 852-853 (18 February 2010) | doi:10.1038/463852f; Published online 17 February 2010

Condensed matter: Cutting it fine

Appl. Phys. Lett. 96, 053107 (2010)

Atomically thin sheets of carbon called graphene are revered for their unusual electrical properties (see Journal Club). Now graphene has competition: Alexander Balandin and his colleagues at the University of California, Riverside, have found another material that can form atomically thin flakes, bismuth telluride (Bi2Te3).

Unlike graphene, which consists of layers just one atom thick, Bi2Te3 has five closely packed atomic sheets bound by weak forces. The researchers created flakes of five sheets or fewer by rubbing them off a larger crystal mechanically, a method similar to that used to isolate graphene. The flakes had different electrical properties depending on the number of atomic sheets they contained, which might allow Bi2Te3 sheets to be 'tuned' for different uses.

Moreover, Bi2Te3 can turn a heat gradient into an electrical current. This conversion, the authors suggest, might be more efficient in the graphene-like Bi2Te3 sheets than in their bulk crystal counterparts.

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