Jared Kosters

In the past decade, researchers have made significant efforts to synthesize and isolate atomic-scale energy materials structures with vastly enhanced performance. Such technological improvements lead to greater energy savings, lower energy costs, and carbon emission reductions. Two materials, in particular, continue to receive a lot of attention in the news: graphene and silicene.

Both graphene and silicene are critical energy materials because they have properties or functionalities that enable the generation, transmission, or storage of energy in the form of heat or power. Generally speaking, such energy materials have higher performance when scaled down in size, ideally to atomic scale. The drive for one-atom-thick, high-performing materials continues to form the basis for advancing graphene- and silicene-based technologies.

Graphene is the thinnest, lightest, and strongest substance that humans have ever synthesized. It also shatters records for being one of the most electrically and thermally conductive materials ever known. The existence of this one-atom-thick hexagonal lattice of carbon atoms had been theorized for over half a century and was finally isolated in a laboratory in 2004.

Graphene structure

AlexanderAlUS, Wikimedia: Structure of Graphene

Silicene is a relatively new but burgeoning research area because of its promise to revolutionize transistors—a key component of computers. This past year, scientists successfully created the first silicene transistor, which had been theorized more than 20 years ago.

Energy materials are a major focus area for researchers and professional societies. About four years ago, Nexight Group collaborated with The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society (TMS) to identify breakthrough research opportunities in energy materials and manufacturing technologies that are foundational to the clean energy age. Below are three examples of applications that demonstrate why professional societies like TMS want to investigate the potential for game-changing materials like graphene and silicene to shape our energy future:

We are just beginning to experience the energy, cost, and emissions benefits possible from advanced energy materials like graphene and silicene. As we continue to work toward realizing a clean energy future, key advances in manufacturing technologies are needed to successfully fabricate and achieve the potential of next-generation graphene- and silicene-based energy materials.