Northwestern University researchers have, for the first time, created borophane—atomically thin boron that is stable at standard temperatures and air pressures.

Researchers have long been excited by the promise of borophene—a single-atom-thick sheet of boron—because of its strength, flexibility and electronics properties. Stronger, lighter and more flexible than graphene, borophene could potentially revolutionize batteries, electronics, sensors, photovoltaics and quantum computing.

Unfortunately, borophene only exists inside of an chamber, limiting its practical use outside the lab. By bonding borophene with atomic hydrogen, the Northwestern team created borophane, which has the same exciting properties as borophene and is stable outside of a vacuum.

"The problem is that if you take borophene out of the ultrahigh vacuum and into air, it immediately oxidizes," said Mark C. Hersam, who led the research. "Once it oxidizes, it is no longer borophene and is no longer conductive. The field will continue to be hindered in exploring its real-world use unless borophene can be rendered stable outside an ultrahigh vacuum chamber."

The research will be published March 12 in the journal Science and featured on the cover ("Synthesis of borophane polymorphs through hydrogenation of borophene"). The study marks the first time scientists report the synthesis of borophane.

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