Scientists demo atomic layer lithography on graphene


Scientists demo atomic layer lithography on graphene

20th Sep 2011

A new technique, developed by a team at Rice University, will allow lithographers to strip back individual, atom-thick, layers of graphene, one at a time, shaping the material into the electronic components it promises to revolutionise.

Dr. James Tour and his fellow researchers at Rice University needed to find a way to overcome graphene’s tendency to stick to itself. Although it is famously possible to peel layers of graphene from graphite with a piece of sticky tape, this is not the most precise approach, and often brings multiple layers with breakage and gaps and so on.

Instead of sticky tape, Dr. Tour and his team coated the graphene in a layer of zinc, and then washing the area with hydrochloric acid. This strips away the coated portions leaving the layers below and uncoated areas of the surface untouched. The researchers say it is the highest precision lithography ever developed, and works on graphene oxide, too.

Dr. Tour told PhysicsWorld: “Being able to remove one layer at a time from graphene is the highest precision lithography that has ever been attained, or could ever be attained, for this – or indeed any other material – since it is made of single atoms layers.”

The work is written up in the journal Science here.

Source: ZDNet


Mineral and energy commodity prices will remain high

20th Sep 2011

Buoyed by strong demand from China, mineral and energy prices will remain high in the near future, according to forecasts from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences.

ABARES is holding its annual Outlook conference in Canberra.

Strong growth in China, driven by the growing demand for products such as motor cars and electronics, combined with increasing urbanisation and a booming housing industry. means that the country will be the leader among developing nations in providing a market for Australian commodities.

Export earnings from Australia’s energy and minerals commodities in 2010-11 are forecast to increase by 33 per cent to around $186 billion, driven by forecast higher export prices and volumes for most commodities.

Thermal coal

World thermal coal trade is forecast to grow to 962 million tonnes by 2016, an increase of 4 per cent.

Major importers will be China and India, while Japan, Korea and Europe will remain steady consumers as well.

Australian thermal coal exports will continue to grow, with mine expansion continuing in all producing states.

In 2011-12, Australia’s coal exports are forecast to increase by 9 per cent to 161 million tonnes.

Mine production scheduled to commence in 2011, including Moolarben and Mangoola, will underpin this expansion.

Between 2012-13 and 2015-16, Australia’s thermal coal exports are forecast to grow at an average annual rate of 11 per cent to total 242 million tonnes in 2015-16.

Encouraged by sustained high prices and strong demand, mining companies are expected to invest in expanding capacity.

Coal export earnings are forecast to increase by 24 per cent to $15.1 billion, reflecting higher prices and an increase in exports. In 2011-12, the value of coal exports is forecast to increase by a further 28 per cent to $19.3 billion.

Metallurgical coal
The flooding in Queensland earlier this year has affected coal exports from the state, and ABARES predicts that Queensland’s coal production could be 15 million tonnes lower than previously anticipated. It is estimated that the value of the lost exports could be around $2-2.5 billion.

Iron ore

Again, China will rely on imports of iron ore to feed a growing number of mills being built in the country, and declining domestic reserves.

ABARES predicts that Australia’s exports of iron ore will increase at an annual average of 7 per cent to 2016, driven by new developments, largely in Western Australia.

In 2015-16, iron ore export earnings are projected to reach $68 billion (in 2010-11 dollars), as strong growth in export volumes offsets lower prices.


World gold prices are forecast to rise in the near future, before falling to around $US 973 an ounce in 2013, then rising again to $US 1064 by 2016.

Australian gold production will be boosted by new mine production, mostly in Western Australia.

The value of Australian gold exports is forecast to rise by 15 per cent to $15.0 billion in 2010-11, in response to a significantly higher Australian dollar denominated gold price and the modest increase in export volumes.

In 2011-12, the value of gold exports is forecast to rise by a further 12 per cent to $16.8 billion as the rise in export volumes is partly offset by a lower gold price.

Base metals

Aluminium production in Australia is forecast to remain steady. Aluminium production in Australia increasing slowly, from 1.96 million tonnes in 2010-11 to 2.07 million tonnes in 2015-16. Most Australian production is exported, and new developments in such areas as car construction will account for its use.

Australian exports of aluminium are projected to increase from 1.72 million tonnes in 2010-11 to 1.76 million tonnes in 2015-16.

In 2010-11, Australia’s export earnings from nickel are forecast to increase by 13 per cent to $4.4 billion.

This reflects an increase in export volumes, up 2 per cent to 226,000 tonnes, and prices that are forecast to be 24 per cent higher than in 2009-10. The increase in export volumes is driven largely by higher production from existing operations, including higher production at Western Areas’ Spotted Quoll operation.

Copper production is also expected to rise, with exports of 893,000 tonnes in 2010-2011.

The value of copper exports is projected to reach $11.8 billion in 2012-13, before declining to $9 billion in real terms by 2015-16.

India and China are leading zinc consumers, and in Australia in 2010-11 zinc mine production is forecast to increase by 10 per cent to around
1.50 million tonnes.

At present, about 55 per cent of worldwide LNG capacity under construction is located in Australia.

By 2015-16, Australia’s LNG exports are forecast to increase to 41 million tonnes, an increase of 126 per cent from 2010-11.

Oil exports are forecast to increase by 15 per cent in 2010-11 and by a further 7 per cent in 2011-12 to reach 22 gigalitres.

These forecast increases in exports reflect an assumption that a significant proportion of production from fields in the Bonaparte, Browse and Carnarvon basins will be exported, given their proximity to Asian refineries.

Beyond 2012-13, oil exports are projected to decline to 20 gigalitres by 2015-16. However, the value of Australia’s oil exports is forecast to increase from 2010-11 to 2012-13, reflecting a forecast increase in export volumes and higher expected prices.

By 2012-13 the value of oil exports is forecast to reach $13.6 billion, before declining gradually to $11.7 billion by 2015-16.



Carbon Cling Wrap

20th Sep 2011

The race is on to develop technologies that capture carbon dioxide from power stations and other industrial sources – one of the most exciting emerging technologies looks just like the cling wrap used to wrap lunches. Tanya Ha from Catalyst discovers that membrane technology could one day filter up to 90 per cent of CO2 from smokestacks.

To view the video, or read the article, click here and be redirected to the Catalyst website.


Japan finds rare earths in Pacific seabed

20th Sep 2011

The geologists estimate that there are about a 100bn tons of the rare elements in the mud of the Pacific Ocean floor.

At present, China produces 97% of the world’s rare earth metals.

Analysts say the Pacific discovery could challenge China’s dominance, if recovering the minerals from the seabed proves commercially viable.

The British journal Nature Geoscience reported that a team of scientists led by Yasuhiro Kato, an associate professor of earth science at the University of Tokyo, found the minerals in sea mud at 78 locations.

“The deposits have a heavy concentration of rare earths. Just one square kilometre (0.4 square mile) of deposits will be able to provide one-fifth of the current global annual consumption,” said Yasuhiro Kato, an associate professor of earth science at the University of Tokyo.

The minerals were found at depths of 3,500 to 6,000 metres (11,500-20,000 ft) below the ocean surface.

Environmental fears

One-third of the sites yielded rich contents of rare earths, Mr Kato said.

The deposits are in international waters east and west of Hawaii, and east of Tahiti in French Polynesia.

Why rare earths are so important to the world’s economy
Mr Kato estimated that rare earths contained in the deposits amounted to 80 to 100 billion tonnes.

The US Geological Survey has estimated that global reserves are just 110 million tonnes, found mainly in China, Russia and other former Soviet countries, and the United States.

China’s apparent monopoly of rare earth production enabled it to restrain supply last year during a territorial dispute with Japan.

Japan has since sought new sources of the rare earth minerals.

The Malaysian government is considering whether to allow the construction of an Australian-financed project to mine rare earths, in the face of local opposition focused on the fear of radioactive waste.

The number of firms seeking licences to dig through the Pacific Ocean floor is growing rapidly.

The listed mining company Nautilus has the first licence to mine the floor of the Bismarck and Solomon oceans around Papua New Guinea.

It will be recovering what is called seafloor massive sulphide, for its copper and gold content.

The prospect of deep sea mining for precious metals – and the damage that could do to marine ecosystems – is worrying environmentalists.



Attractive new magnetic material

20th Sep 2011

A material that temporarily transforms itself into a "permanent" magnet when a small voltage is applied has been discovered by scientists in Japan.

Although substances with similar behaviours have been described Magnetic field linesbefore, these have worked in this way only at super-low temperatures close to absolute zero. But what sets this new material apart is that it exhibits this magnetic phenomenon at room temperature.

For the full story – head to Science News.

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