Nearly Perfect Fluid Behavior Inside a Nanoscale Solid

Inhomogeneous Current Flow

The discovery of graphene — a sheet of carbon only one atom thick — has led to the development of a new generation of high speed transistors. Graphene's unusual characteristics result in ultrafast electrical conduction and ultralow energy loss. This makes it an ideal material for next generation electronic devices, but why does it have such unusual characteristics? Early theories suggested that the electrons in graphene do not interact so they flow more freely. However, researchers have recently learned that the electrons do strongly interact and yet behave like a perfect fluid with a nearly zero viscosity. Quantum mechanical theory indicates that graphene is a "macroscopic quantum system" like superconductors. This explains the materials' low-resistance to electron motion. The discovery places graphene in the small family of almost perfect fluids and encourages scientists and engineers to look at more applications of this novel material.

This work has been featured in: Viewpoint commentary in Physics 2, 57 (2009) Electrons in graphene: an interacting fluid par excellence by Igor Herbut; Research Highlight in Nature Nanotechnology (July 2009) Graphene: Fantastic fluid, by Tim Reid; Science News (July 2009): Graphene gains nearly perfect liquid status, by Rachel Ehrenberg.

Contact: Jörg Schmalian, schmalian@ameslab.gov

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