A self-assembling polymer that forms thin films and conducts electricity could beat graphene as a candidate material for flexible electronics.

Credit: Dennis Sheberla

Graphene, made of an atom-thick sheet of carbon, is flexible but cannot be used as a semiconductor in transistors because it lacks a 'band gap'. Mircea Dincă at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and his colleagues mixed nickel with an organic compound called HITP and ammonia in water to produce a graphene-like structure with the important band gap.

The ingredients self-assemble into a flat, honeycomb-like structure (pictured) that has excellent electrical conductivity, unlike most other self-assembled organic–inorganic systems. The team studied the material only in bulk form, but say that the results could be even better if the polymer was in two-dimensional sheets, perhaps leading to more efficient solar cells and supercapacitors.

J. Am. Chem. Soc. http://doi.org/spj (2014)