We live in a three-dimensional world. The materials we use are three-dimension. But miniaturization of materials used in tech items has taken us to the realm of materials beyond three-dimension. These amazing materials are going to carve the future of materials.

Materials Beyond Three Dimensions – The Possible Future of  Materials

Materials are made up of atoms. The complexity of material grows as the number of atoms by which it is made is increased. The simpler materials seem to have some outstanding properties when observed. Also, the periodicity of structure, and crystalline nature, introduce better electronic, mechanical, and optical properties. As the present studies suggest, contrary to three-dimensional objects, objects with lesser dimensions have extraordinary properties.

Recent advances in theoretical as well as experimental quantum science have increased the study of lower-dimension materials, materials beyond three dimensions. Due to the extraordinary properties they bear, they have been the center of an investigation in material science.

Since we live in three dimensions, experiments started in three-dimensional materials. But now with the development of appropriate tools, research has converged in the study of materials beyond three dimensions such as two-dimensional (2D) – sheets, one-dimensional (1D) – nanowires/nanotubes/nanorods, and zero-dimensional (0D) – quantum dots.

These materials are individually peculiar and differ from the usual three-dimensional materials. This is basically due to the confinement of electrons and the restricted influence of forces in these types of structures. The electron confinement might result in discrete energy levels rather than a continuum of energy. So, these materials have different electronic properties which have proved useful in the development of condensed matter physics.

0D Materials

A material of atomic dimension is called a point object or zero-dimensional material. Quantum dots, often called artificial atoms are groups of atoms with bound and discrete electron states. These materials are of nanometer size and have a property of peculiar optical emission depending upon the dot size. These materials are widely used nowadays in experiments for high-efficiency solar cells.

Quantum dots are used in the color application; they are superior to dyes and also quantum dots can be used in the display to project better color. Due to the confinement of electrons, the measurement of spin can be precise, and hence it can help quantum computing. These potential uses of the quantum dot have made it one of the important materials in condensed matter physics.

1D materials

When such atoms or a small group of atoms are arranged in a linear arrangement, we get a one-dimensional structure. Nanowires and nanotubes are topologically one-dimensional materials. A nanowire has a diameter of several nanometers whereas its length-to-diameter ratio is in the range of 1000. These materials can be made from several elements.

Two dimensions are quantum confined in these materials so they are distinguished from their bulk counterpart with remarkable mechanical, electronic, and optical properties. Due to their small size and efficient electron-transport property, they are used in further miniaturization of the transistors.

Also, they have been used in biological sensors and magnetic devices. The nanowires are also found to increase the efficiency of solar cells and recently scientists have focused on nanowire-based solar cells. Apart from these, their mechanical strength is also superior to any other materials in the world so they have been used in making ropes and armors.

2D materials

If we cut a nanotube, we get a sheet that is one atom thick. This material is called 2D material. There are several 2D materials such as graphene, borophene, germanene, silicene, monolayer – hexagonal boron nitride, etc. Among these materials, the first synthesized one and the most studied is graphene.

Graphene is a two-dimensional sheet of carbon with a hexagonal lattice structure which is 200 times stronger than the strongest steel despite its flexibility and lightweight. Apart from this, it is conductive and also transparent.

Graphene is the most superior 2D material since there has been no other 2D material better than it. Almost all the 2D material research is confined to graphene. Its properties have made it an exemplary 2D material with a wide range of applications in the fields like optoelectronics, biomedical, engineering, photovoltaic, etc.

It can be used as a high-efficiency solar cell, as an alternative source of energy, and even as transistors which can reduce the size of the transistors. So, 2D materials such as graphene can shape future material science.

Modern Research and Possible Future

These days, research activities are being carried out to use nanowires as stretchable and flexible electrodes. This might one day result in the manufacturing of flexible electronic devices as we have always imagined.

Graphene and other two-dimensional materials are extensively studied for their use in high-efficiency solar cells, field-effect transistors, and highly sensitive sensors. The quantum dots, on the other hand, are thoroughly scrutinized and are used in cellular imaging. The graphene quantum dots are believed to aid quantum computing.

So, in the near future, we might have flexible quantum computers in our hands like we have mobile phones in today’s world. These promising materials and their extensive study are sure to lead us to a better understanding of the improvement in technological devices to the level we have dreamt of.

Ashwin Khadka is a PhD Scholar in Nano Energy and Thermofluid Lab in Korea University, Republic of Korea under Korean Government Scholarship Program. He has a Masters Degree in Physics from Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal. He is a science enthusiast, researcher and writer.