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University of Basel

Nanomaterials and Their Electrical Properties

The research group led by Professor Christian Schönenberger is experimenting with nanocomponents to explore their electrical properties. The components are based on innovative nanomaterials such as nanotubes, nanowires and graphene. These materials offer promising ways to exploit the quantum-mechanical properties for data processing and data communication. These so-called quantum electronics are currently developing into one of the most significant research focuses in the world.

Christian Schönenberger
Christian Schönenberger and his team are researching the nanomaterial graphene – the material of the future. © Universität Basel

Nanotubes and semiconducting nanowires are excellently suited to designing efficient transistors that can be used to manipulate individual electrons. This ultimate limit, in which the basic unit of information consists of a single electron, is promising a new revolution for the processing power of computers. This method has already enabled applications in the area of sensor technology. Christian Schönenberger’s group has, for example, succeeded in developing highly sensitive chemical sensors by integrating numerous nanowires onto a single chip.

Graphene is another interesting nanomaterial that Christian Schönenberger’s group is exploring. The material consists of a single layer of carbon atoms that are connected to each other in a honeycomb-like structure. Graphene is ultrathin, transparent and elastic. At the same time, it exhibits extreme mechanical strength and is an excellent conductor of heat and electrical charge. Graphene is thought to be the material of the future, offering great potential for commercial applications such as touchscreens, solar cells, aircraft and satellites.

Because Professor Schönenberger and his team recognized the possibilities of graphene early on and integrated it into their research of new nanomaterials, the University of Basel was selected to be part of the European Graphene flagship program in 2013. The EU project, which annually receives as much as EUR 100 million in funding, is concerned with making use of new materials consisting of two-dimensional carbon structures for information and communications technologies.

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