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Like diamonds or coal, graphene is a carbon with incredible potential

Views: 56     Author: Site Editor     Publish Time: 2021-06-24      Origin: Site

Like diamonds or coal, graphene is a carbon with incredible potential

Found at the end of a pencil (literally!), graphene is a pure carbon wonder material like diamond or coal. And, just as structure determines the difference between a diamond and a lump of coal, the magic of graphene lies in its amazing structure.

Graphene is as close to two-dimensional as anything in the real world. Graphene's carbon atoms are arranged just one atom thick in a hexagonal wire mesh pattern. An atom is thin—even a human hair is nearly 300,000 atoms thick.

Graphene is transparent, lightweight, and conducts electricity and heat better than any other known material.

"Graphene is stronger and harder than diamond, but can be stretched like rubber by a quarter of its length," said Andrei Heim, who collaborated with Kostya Novoselov for the discovery of graphene Shared the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics with Kostya Novoselov.

Graphene has amazing potential for uses -- strengthening plastics and giving them electrical properties, making denser, faster integrated circuits, making better touchscreens. Almost every nanotechnology device can benefit from graphene's extraordinary ability to dissipate heat and optimize electronic functions.

So why haven't you heard of graphene? Because the tiny crystals of graphene are amazing, we haven't been able to make large sheets of graphene to cover nanoelectronic devices or mobile phone touchscreens.

At UIC, several researchers are working on graphene — finding ways to use this wonder material and figuring out how to get around obstacles and realize its full potential. They include:

Amin Salehi-Khojin, Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering

Salehi-Khojin and his lab team have discovered a technique to control the sensitivity of graphene chemical sensors. Sensors made from insulating substrates coated with graphene sheets are already so sensitive that they can detect individual gas molecules. But new technology may enable sensors to detect even the tiniest gas concentrations.

Robert Klie, Associate Professor of Physics

When they sandwiched a biomolecule between graphene sheets, researchers in the Cleary lab obtained atomic-scale images of the molecule in its natural water environment. "It's like looking through the difference between Saran Wrap and thick crystal," Klie said.

Alexander Yarin, Professor of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering

Yarin and a colleague at Korea University have developed a simple, inexpensive spray method that produces high-quality graphene layers. "Imagine something like Silly Putty hitting a wall -- it stretches and unfolds smoothly," Yarin said.

Fatemeh Khalili-Araghi, Assistant Professor of Physics

Khalili-Araghi's team figured out how the boundaries between graphene particles affect the thermal conductivity of thin films of matter. The discovery brings developers one step closer to making graphene films that can be used to cool microelectronic devices and hundreds of other nanotechnology applications.

Vikas Berry, Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering

Berry and his colleagues created an electromechanical device -- a humidity sensor -- on bacterial spores by coating the spores with graphene quantum dots and then attaching electrodes to either side of the spores.