graphene

Graphene blended into perfection

News this week that graphene has been created in a kitchen blender made me want to talk about just how fantastic this carbon creation is.

At a molecular level, graphene looks like a long fence of chickenwire. It is a single layer of graphite, latticing into hexagons tipped with a head atom of carbon. Graphene is only one atom thick yet it is stiffer than diamond.

Furthermore, its structure has no band gap (the gap between the energy of an electron when it is bound to an atom) meaning that it can be used to make photovoltaic power cells not affected by electron loss.

If you get a sheet of graphene large enough, this would be the result. Image credit: exremetech.com

If you get a sheet of graphene large enough, this would be the result. Image credit: exremetech.com

While this alone is able to dazzle the scientific community, Dr Leonid Ponomarenko from  Manchester University has concluded graphene has “the highest current density (a million times that of copper) at room temperature; the highest intrinsic mobility (100 times more than in silicon); and conducts electricity in the limit of no electrons.”

Properties such as this would be crucial in the advancement of everyday technology used by all of us, especially if graphene could be utilized as a general electrical conductor.

If all of this information does not captivate your imagination, then ponder the fact that graphene is only one atom thick yet is visible with the naked eye. Whilst it is transparent (only absorbing around two percent of reflective light) you can still hold it against another object and be able to observe it, just like glass.

The BBC reported yesterday that graphene was made in a kitchen blender. The rapidly rotating blades of the blender were able to divide the layers of graphite and break up the carbon molecules into graphene.

It can be difficult to synthesise graphene because it is only one atom thick. So getting the layers to come apart has given some interesting solutions such as scientists using sticky tape to peel individual layers from a graphite pencil.

The blender study was published in the journal Nature Materials.

While this topic may seem novel, it is an important step to developing industrially scalable methods for making graphene.

This TEDx talk explains graphene science and its uses. Mikael Fogelstrom gives a great 20-minute lecture and I encourage you to watch it if you have the time:

[Cover Image via Wikimedia Commons]

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