• Question: how do electrons flow through a graphine sheet?

    Asked by k9markred to Daniela, Hannah, Ian, Jono, Mark on 15 Jun 2013.
    • Photo: Ian Wilson

      Ian Wilson answered on 15 Jun 2013:

      Hi k9markred,

      I’m afraid this one’s a bit beyond me! What I do know and understand is that physicists working with graphene think that electrons move as if they don’t have a mass. Now electrons are unbelievably tiny so they don’t have very much mass anyway, but there’s something about graphene (maybe the way that its atoms are arranged) that changes the electrons to make them lighter. This means they move faster through the graphene.

      I’m afraid that’s as much as I can tell you without making things up lol! Sorry I couldn’t be any more help.

      Perhaps one of the other scientists will know?


    • Photo: Daniela Plana

      Daniela Plana answered on 16 Jun 2013:

      Hi k9merkred!

      As far as I understand, Ian is right… how fast something can move depends on how much it weights, but also on what is around it… if it finds things blocking it’s way, then it has to slow down and find a different path… that’s what normally happens in most materials, they have “energy” barriers, which generate a “resistance”, which essentially slows down electrons moving through them… the way carbon atoms are arranged in graphene (they form 2D sheets, which consist of rings of six atoms all linked together) makes it so that not only do the electrons appear to weight less, making them faster, but there are less energy barriers, having instead things that act as “tunnels” letting the electrons move through them quite fast!

      There was a good interview just this week on The One Show about graphene, with some of the people in the University of Manchester who work on it. I think you might still catch it on the bbc iplayer (it’s from the 11th of June) or find it somewhere on the internet…

      Hope that helps!

    • Photo: Mark Hodson

      Mark Hodson answered on 17 Jun 2013:

      Hi k9markred,

      the electrons hop or flow from atom to atom through the sheet. Although we often draw atoms with electrons orbiting around a nucleus, in fact it would be more realistic to draw them as a cloud buzzing around the atoms. The electrons drift from one cloud to another across the sheet.



    • Photo: Hannah Brotherton

      Hannah Brotherton answered on 18 Jun 2013:

      Hi k9markred,
      I work at the University of Manchester and two Professors won the Nobel Prize (the highest prize in science) for creating thinnest graphene structure. It is one atom thick and 10 atoms across (thats tiny)…it is so thin and electron literally moves through it without any problem. Its like the electron is a ghost, freely moving in and out of the graphene sheet. This means the electron is even smaller than the atoms, findings gaps between the atom molecules, letting is move in and out with no problem. If you want to, have a look on the University of Manchester website, they have loads of cool information about graphene and electrons!