The discovery of an insulating alternative may help overcome some of the problems faced by graphene, thought by many to be the electronics components material of the future.
Graphene, which consists of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb lattice, conducts electricity almost too well – making it difficult for engineers to create graphene-based transistors that can be applied to integrated circuits.
However, Professor Kostya Novoselov, a Manchester University physicist from the research group that originally discovered the material in 2004, believes graphene's insulating equivalent graphane may have unlocked new possibilities.
Graphane has been "spray-painted" with hydrogen atoms that bond to the carbon, effectively tying down the electrons that make graphene over-conductive.
"Being able to control the resistivity, optical transmittance and a material's work function would all be important for photonic devices like solar cells and liquid-crystal displays, for example," commented Professor Novoselov.
The discovery follows research by the Georgia Institute of Technology into the potential for using graphene nanoribbons as interconnects in future computer chips.