MXenes are materials made of many extremely thin layers of metal, between which scientists can slip different ions for various purposes. They are particularly adept at enabling new electronics or energy storage methods but they are notoriously hard to produce.

Now, a new breakthrough by scientists with the University of Chicago allows MXenes to be manufactured far more quickly and easily, with fewer toxic byproducts, according to a press release by the institution published on Thursday.

First discovered in 2011, MXenes allowed for metals like gold or titanium to be shaved to create atomic-thin sheets while retaining their special abilities like conducting electricity strongly.

They’re also easily customizable: “You can put ions between the layers to use them to store energy, for example,” said chemistry graduate student Di Wang, co-first author of the paper along with postdoctoral scholar Chenkun Zhou.

These properties could make MXenes extremely useful for building new devices—for example, to store electricity or to block electromagnetic wave interference.

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