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Hematene: the new graphene?

Graphene, the relatively new, atom-thin material, is considered a game-changing material and has been used in anything from paint to dresses to condoms. Now, 14 years after its discovery, research from scientists at Rice University has led to a new 2D material entering the stage: hematene.

Hematene is extracted from common iron ore, and measures 3 atoms thick, slightly thicker than graphene, which is only 1 atom thick.

The researchers think that hematene may be an efficient photocatalyst, especially for splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen. It could also serve as an ultra thin magnetic material for spintronic-based devices.

The material is extracted from naturally occurring hematite, the mineral form of iron(III) oxide, using a combination of sonication, centrifugation and vacuum-assisted filtration. Hematite was already known to have photocatalytic properties, but these are not good enough to be useful, according to the researchers. Hematene, on the other hand, has a more efficient photocataysis.

In addition, hematene’s magnetic properties are different from those of hematite. Hematene is ferromagnetic (the mechanism by which certain materials like iron form permanent magnets, or are attracted to magnets) like a common magnet, while hematite is antiferromagnetic.

Unlike carbon and its 2D form, graphene, hematite is a non-van der Waals material, meaning it’s held together by 3D bonding networks rather than non-chemical and comparatively weaker atomic van der Waals interactions. 2D materials from bulk precursors having non-van der Waals 3D bonding networks are rare.

With all these interesting properties, it’s only a matter of time before we hear more about this material. Stay tuned!