2 Atoms thick Glass; World’s thinnest

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A small pane of glass just two atoms thick has entered the 2014 Guinness Book of World Records as the thinnest sheet of glass in the world. According to a bit of research that was published in the American Chemical Society in 2012, but unearthed fairly recently as a result of the find making it into the Guinness Book of World Records, scientists have managed to come up with a sheet of glass that’s all of one molecule thick. Better yet, the find was a complete accident on the part of the researchers, who weren’t actually looking to break any records in glass construction at the time of the discovery.

The glass itself measures all of two atoms in thickness, giving it a somewhat unusual bendable property — “much more flexible than regular glass,” described Cornell University professor David Mueller in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. Mueller runs the Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science, and it was in one of his labs where the discovery occurred.

A microscopic photo of a sheet of glass only two atoms thick blends with an artist’s conception to show the structural rendering. (Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science)

The scientists were attempting to make graphene at the time, and have postulated that an air leak within the quartz furnace they were using caused its copper foils to react with the quartz. This ultimately produced a layer of “muck,” as they first described it, on top of the graphene itself.

Closer inspection — via electron microscope — revealed that the muck’s structure was “like a cartoon of the structure of glass in an undergraduate textbook,” Muller said, in reference to the fact that no researcher has actually been able to construct glass thin enough to be able to view its underlying structure before.

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