A team of scientists from Stanford University in the US in collaboration with researchers from institutions based in China claim to have made a sample of stanene. The latter is a one-atom thick mesh of tin that is predicted to be able to conduct electricity without losing heat, hence making it the most efficient of all known substances. The scientific paper has been published in the journal Nature Materials.
2D stanene’s atomic structure. Photo credits: Nature Materials (2015).
Stanene is two-dimensional which would allow electrons to move along the edges of the mesh in a single path without the usual collisions that result in vibrations, implying that the energy loss occurring in three-dimensional materials would not happen. The theories also dictate that it can work at room temperature.
“It’s surprising that it can work at such a high temperature,” one of the authors of the research paper, physicist Shou-Cheng Zhang from Stanford University, said in a statement back in 2013. “Scientists have looked for dissipationless transport of electricity for many years, but usually the systems we find only work under extreme conditions, either very low temperature or strong magnetic fields.”
Therefore, it is thought that stanene-made wires would make efficient conductors of electricity over long distances and for long time periods with no energy loss ideally. Imagine a world where laptops and phones could work for hours without becoming hot.
Theoretically, stanene might even overtake graphene which is currently considered to be the best material for electronics.
Does the stanene that has been produced by the team of researchers live up to the theories though? The scientists yet have to test it for these properties. This might not be feasible any time soon, as explained in a university press release:-
“The researchers vaporised a bit of tin inside of a vacuum chamber, allowing it to form its characteristic mesh on a bismuth telluride surface. The team was able to see only the top ridges of the structure with a scanning tunneling microscope, however, and believe the substrate interacted with the mesh, preventing conductivity testing.”