Researchers have created a 2D material called borophane — a sheet of boron and hydrogen a mere two atoms in thickness. While graphene is simply one atomic layer out of the many same layers in the common material graphite, borophene has no equivalent parent structure and is very difficult to prepare. What’s more, the rapid reaction of borophene with air means it is very unstable and changes form readily. But when mixed with hydrogen, borophene becomes much more stable for use in nanoelectronics and quantum information technology.

The team grew borophene on a silver substrate, then exposed it to hydrogen to form the borophane. They then unraveled the complex structure of borophane by combining a scanning tunneling microscope with a computer-vision based algorithm that compares theoretical simulations of structures with experimental measurements.

Even though the borophane material is only two atoms thick, its structure is complex because of the many possible arrangements for the boron and hydrogen atoms. Given the success in unraveling this complex structure, the team’s automated analytical technique should be applicable in identifying other complex nanostructures in the future.

The new material could be easily integrated with other materials in the construction of new devices for optoelectronics — devices combining light with electronics. Such light-controlling and light-emitting devices could be incorporated into telecommunications, medical equipment, and more.

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