In a report published in Nature Physics, a group led Dr Leonid Ponomarenko and Nobel prize-winner Professor Andre Geim has assembled individual atomic layers on top of each other in a desired sequence.
The team used individual one-atom-thick crystals to construct a multilayer cake that works as a nanoscale electric transformer.
Graphene, isolated for the first time at The University of Manchester in 2004, has the potential to revolutionise diverse applications from smartphones and ultrafast broadband to drug delivery and computer chips.
It has the potential to replace existing materials, such as silicon, but the Manchester researchers believe it could truly find its place with new devices and materials yet to be invented.
In the nanoscale transformer, electrons moving in one metallic layer pull electrons in the second metallic layer by using their local electric fields. To operate on this principle, the metallic layers need to be insulated electrically from each other but separated by no more than a few interatomic distances, a giant leap from the existing nanotechnologies.
These new structures could pave the way for a new range of complex and detailed electronic and photonic devices which no other existing material could make, which include various novel architectures for transistors and detectors.
The scientists used graphene as a one-atom-thick conductive plane while just four atomic layers of boron nitride served as an electrical insulator.
The researchers started with extracting individual atomic planes from bulk graphite and boron nitride by using the same technique that led to the Nobel Prize for graphene, a single atomic layer of carbon. Then, they used advanced nanotechnology to mechanically assemble the crystallites one by one, in a Lego style, into a crystal with the desired sequence of planes.
The nano-transformer was assembled by Dr Roman Gorbachev, of The University of Manchester, who described the required skills. He said: "Every Russian and many in the West know The Tale of the Clockwork Steel Flea.
"It could only be seen through the most powerful microscope but still danced and even had tiny horseshoes. Our atomic-scale Lego perhaps is the next step of craftsmanship".
Professor Geim added: "The work proves that complex devices with various functionalities can be constructed plane by plane with atomic precision.
"There is a whole library of atomically-thin materials. By combining them, it is possible to create principally new materials that don't exist in nature. This avenue promises to become even more exciting than graphene itself."
University of Manchester: http://www.manchester.ac.uk
This press release was posted to serve as a topic for discussion. Please comment below. We try our best to only post press releases that are associated with peer reviewed scientific literature. Critical discussions of the research are appreciated. If you need help finding a link to the original article, please contact us on twitter or via e-mail.
The director of a UK science facility says it could set a new world record in nuclear fusion by the end of the decade.
An extension of Einstein's gravity would let us build a wormhole – if we could send messages to invisible aliens via space-time ripples
John Eric Goff, the chair of the physics department at Lynchburg College, explains the science of the 2014 World Cup soccer ball.
When an asteroid plows into the Earth, it destroys pretty much everything in its path. But new research has shown that glass created during a searing asteroid impact can actually trap microscopic signs of life for millions of years, providing scientists with a snapshot of the biology in the area just before and after the strike.
It's not often that we think about deep time. Lucky to live for a century, humans flitter like mayflies across Earth's surface, our own epoch an eyeblink in a planetary history that's largely hidden from everyday consciousness. Every now and then, though, that history punches right through into the present.
Ancient grasses from the Pampas of Argentina were preserved when asteroids struck the area, scientists report.
The longest-running experiment in the world has for the first time glimpsed a drop of viscous pitch fall – although the event comes too late for one man
A playfully named subatomic particle is confirmed, and beats rivals Bert and Ernie in terms of energy. Next step: to find a cluster of space neutrinos
Can matter be made of four quarks bound together? The discovery of a new particle has been confirmed at the LHC and may be our best hope of an answer
Traditional spice producers and synthetic biologists don't have to compete – there's room for both