The slippery state caused by water or oil is called superlubricity — where there is basically no friction on a surface. In graphene, this superlubricity state comes from atomic orbitals that compose carbon atoms. To generate friction, some orbitals must overlap and heat, or some energy must be released. Graphene does not require this process; rather, it spontaneously slides on top of other layers, but does not release heat. Graphene, which is 300 times stronger than steel, becomes mechanically weaker and can easily break.

The material could be used in scratch-proof paint for automobiles.

Researchers have found superlubricity in a few layers of graphene — a concept where friction vanishes or very nearly vanishes. The team also found that a few layers of hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN) are as strong as diamond, but are more flexible, lighter, and less expensive.

The h-BN layers form the strongest thin insulator available, and the unique qualities of the material could be used to create flexible and almost unbreakable smart devices, as well as scratch-proof paint for cars. The h-BN can easily be integrated in tiny electronic circuits or to reinforce structures, as it is more robust against shocks or mechanical stress. The material also could be used in motor engines to reduce friction, since no heat is released.

Electronic device companies currently integrate h-BN in prototypes together with graphene. Other manufacturers also incorporate it with polymers to give additional strength for mechanical applications such as aerospace, sports, and civil engineering.

For more information, contact Emma Gallagher at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; 028 9097 5384.


Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the December, 2017 issue of Tech Briefs Magazine.

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