Superstar graphene can create huge magnetic power

11 Dec 2015

Researchers looking into graphene – the A-list celebrity of physics at the moment – have discovered that if you stretch out the wonder material it creates a “powerful, adjustable and sustainable magnetic force”.

Graphene is a material that has been wowing scientists for over a decade now. Harnessed from graphite, the teeny tiny thing is about as thick as an atom, yet incredibly strong.

It’s remarkably resolute, enjoying conductive powers, too, with its versatility placing it top of the pile in terms of physics research projects.

Now, though, it turns out graphene is greater still, for University of Maryland researchers reckon they can generate magnentism out of it.

Theoretical model

Shuze Zhu, Teng Li, and Joseph Stroscio have developed a theoretical model that demonstrates how to shape and stretch graphene to create a powerful, adjustable and sustainable magnetic force.

When graphene is stretched, its electrons behave as if they’re caught in a strong ‘pseudomagnetic field’, to the power of 200 Tesla.


Illustration shows how applying a simple stretch to a specifically shaped sheet of graphene creates a stable and controllable pseudomagnetic field – via University of Maryland

“Our findings reveal a facile yet effective solution to achieve extremely high pseudomagnetic field in a planar graphene by a simple stretch,” said Li.

Shape up, speed up

The stretching is not straightforward, with a particular shape of graphene needed when you, essentially, yank it from both ends – they are confident of applying the theory to action, too.

Graphene studies are about to speed up markedly, on the back of news last month that Scottish researchers can produce it for 10-times less than usual by manipulating copper used to manufacture lithium-ion batteries.

Graphene, king of the physics world, seems to mirror CRISPR/Cas9’s impact on the genetics field – with dramatic cost reductions there, too.

Of course, as with any throne, contenders emerge at will. So maybe next year it will be diamond nanothread and CRISPR/Cpf1 that will dominate studies.

Magnet image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic