GrapheneResearchers are shedding new light on cell biology with the development of a graphene sensor to monitor changes in the mitochondria.

The one-atom-thin layer of carbon sensor is giving researchers a new outlook into the process known as programmed cell death in mitochondria. The mitochondrion, which is found in most cells, has been known as the powerhouse of the cell due to its ability to metabolize and create energy for cells. However, the new researcher out of University of California, Irving shows that that convention wisdom on how cells create energy is only half right.

This from UC Irving:

[Peter] Burke and his colleagues tethered about 10,000 purified mitochondria, separated from their cells, to a graphene sensor via antibodies capable of recognizing a protein in their outer membranes. The graphene’s qualities allowed it to function as a dual-mode sensor; its exceptional electrical sensitivity let researchers gauge fluctuations in the acidity levels surrounding the mitochondria, while its optical transparency enabled the use of fluorescent dyes for the staining and visualization of voltage across the inner mitochondrial membranes.

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GrapheneOver the past few years, researchers have been exploring graphene’s amazing properties and vast potential applications. Now, a team from Iowa State University is looking to take those properties enabled by graphene and applied them to sensors and other technologies.

Many scientists have had a hard time moving graphene from the lab to the marketplace, but the research team from Iowa State University saw potential in using inkjet printers to create multi-layer graphene circuits and electrodes for the production of flexible, wearable electronics.

“Could we make graphene at scales large enough for glucose sensors?” ECS member and Iowa State University postdoctoral researcher, Suprem Das, wanted to know.

(MORE: Read more of Das’ work in the ECS Digital Library.)

The problem with the printing process is that the graphene would then have to be treated to improve its electrical conductivity, which could degrade the flexibility. Instead of using high temperatures and chemical to do this treatment, Das and other members of the team opted to use lasers.

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Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis have found a way to make dirty water drinkable with a light, affordable biofoam.

The newly developed bi-layered biofoam is made up of a bottom layer of bacteria-produced cellulose, which acts as a sponge and soaks up the dirty water. It then pushes that water to the top layer, which is comprised of graphene oxide. The graphene oxide then works to evaporate the filth, resulting in an end product of clean water.

“We hope that for countries where there is ample sunlight, such as India, you’ll be able to take some dirty water, evaporate it using our material, and collect fresh water,” says Srikanth Singamaneni, co-author of the study. “The beauty is that the nanoscale cellulose fiber network produced by bacteria has excellent ability to move the water from the bulk to the evaporative surface while minimizing the heat coming down, and the entire thing is produced in one shot.”

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Researchers around the world have been talking about the potential of “wonder material” graphene since it first entered the field of materials science. However, for all its promising theoretical potential and applications, we’ve yet to see the material make its way to the market. Now, after an announcement by Chinese-based Guangzhous OED Technologies, graphene may make its first appearance in the marketplace within the next year.

The company just announced that they have developed what they are claiming is the “world’s first graphene electronic paper.” The e-paper, which is a display device that mimics the appearance of ordinary ink on paper, is expected to be taken to further heights with this development.

This from Phys:

The group at OED claims to have developed a graphene material that is suitable for use in making e-paper. Doing so, they also claim, allows for creating screens that are more bendable and that are also brighter because they will be able to display light with more intensity. They also suggest that because the end product will be carbon based, it should be cheaper to manufacture than current e-paper products which are based on metal indium.

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Carbyne

Image: Lei Shi/Faculty of Physics, University of Vienna

The material Carbyne hit the benchtop years ago. Scientists were able to calculate the properties of this exotic material, but not able to stabilize it. Carbyne promised to be stronger and stiffer than any other material known to man, but the question of how to synthesize it remained.

Now, researchers from the University of Vienna in Austria were able to do just that. The researchers took the highly reactive, one-dimensional chain of carbon atoms and synthesized it by wrapping it in a double-walled tube of graphene that provided a protective casing, allowing the material to remain intact.

This from Gizmodo:

The record for stringing together carbon atoms like this in the past had been 100 in a row; now, the team can put 6,400 atoms together, and have them remain in a chain for as long as they want. That is, of course, as long as they sit inside the carbon Thermos. It remains to be seen how useful Carbyne will be whilst wrapped up, but for now it’s the best that researchers can achieve.

Read the full article.

While not much is known about Carbyne, the material is believed to be stronger than both graphene and diamonds, and twice the stiffness of any known material. Maybe (just maybe) this could bring us one step closer to space elevators.

Graphene’s potential seems limitless. From to patches that monitor glucose and inject treatment to water-splitting capabilities, the popularly proclaimed “wonder material” is finding a home in a host of applications. However, graphene has yet to make it wide-spread, commercial applications.

To help take graphene from the lab to society, the Graphene Flagship has been formed as a European initiative promoting collaborative research on the up-and-coming material. Recently, the initiative published a paper detailing the possibility of creating light-responsive graphene-based devices that could be applied to anything from photo-sensors to optically controllable memories.

(MORE: Listen to our podcast with nanocarbons expert Bruce Weiseman, where we talk graphene, fullerenes, and all things nano.)

This from Graphene Flagship:

The work shows how, by combining molecules capable of changing their conformation as a result of light irradiation with graphite powder, one can produce concentrated graphene inks by liquid phase exfoliation. These graphene inks can then be used to make devices which, when exposed to UV and visible light, are capable of photo-switching current in a reversible fashion.

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Bruce Weisman, chemistry and materials science professor at Rice University, is internationally recognized for his contributions to the spectroscopy and photophysics of carbon nanostructures. He is a pioneer in the field of spectroscopy, leading the discovery and interpretation of near-infrared fluorescence for semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Aside from his work at Rice University, Weisman is also the founder and president of Applied NanoFluorescence.

Weisman is currently the Division Chair of the ECS Nanocarbons Division, which will be celebrating 25 years of nanocarbons symposia at the upcoming 229th ECS Meeting in San Diego, CA, May 2016. Since starting in 1991, the symposia has totaled 5,853 abstracts at ECS biannual meetings, with Nobel Laureate Richard Smalley delivering the inaugural talk.

Listen to the podcast and download this episode and others for free through the iTunes Store, SoundCloud, or our RSS Feed. You can also find us on Stitcher.

Glucose monitoring has had a long history with electrochemical science and technology. While ECS Honorary Member Adam Heller’s continuous glucose monitoring system for diabetes management may be the first innovation that comes to mind, there is a new electrochemical bio-sensing tool on the horizon.

(WATCH: ECS Masters – Adam Heller)

Researchers have combined graphene with a tiny amount of gold to enhance the wonder material’s properties and develop a flexible skin patch to monitor blood glucose and automatically administer drugs as needed.

This from Extreme Tech:

[As] cool as a non-invasive blood-glucose monitor is, it’s nearly as revolutionary as what comes next: treatment. The patch is studded with “microneedles” that automatically cap themselves with a plug of tridecanoic acid. When high blood-glucose levels are detected, the patch heats a small heater on the needles which deforms the plug and allows the release of metformin, a common drug for treatment of type 2 diabetes. Cooling naturally restores the plug and stops drug release.

Read the full article.

This development is a huge stepping stone in the transformation of graphene as a laboratory curiosity to a real product. While it has taken a while due to the questions of the new material’s intrinsic properties, researchers believe that graphene-based products could soon be hitting the market.

Wrinkles and crumples, introduced by placing graphene on shrinky polymers, can enhance graphene's properties.Image: Brown University

Wrinkles and crumples, introduced by placing graphene on shrinky polymers, can enhance graphene’s properties.
Image: Brown University

By now we’ve heard about the seemingly endless possibilities for the wonder material graphene. The engineers at Brown University are looking to make those possibilities even more appealing through a process that could make the nanomaterial both water repellant and enhance its electrochemical properties.

The research team is looking to improve upon the already impressive graphene by wrinkling and crumpling sheets of the material by placing it on shrink polymers to enhance its properties, potentially leading to new breakthroughs in batteries and fuel cells.

This from Brown University:

This new research builds on previous work done by Robert Hurt and Ian Wong, from Brown’s School of Engineering. The team had previously showed that by introducing wrinkles into graphene, they could make substrates for culturing cells that were more similar to the complex environments in which cells grow in the body. For this latest work, the researchers led by Po-Yen Chen, a Hibbit postdoctoral fellow, wanted to build more complex architectures incorporating both wrinkles and crumples.

Read the full article.

Crumpling the graphene makes it superhydrophobic, a property that could be used to develop self-cleaning surfaces. Additionally, the enhanced electrochemical properties could be used in next-generation energy storage and production.

“You don’t need a new material to do it,” said Po-Yen Chen, co-author of the study. “You just need to crumple the graphene.”

Graphene is at it again, outperforming all known materials (including superconductors) in a recent study testing the transmission of high frequency electrical signals.

The researchers found that when the electrical signals pass through graphene, none of the energy is lost – opening the door to a new realm of electrical transmission.

This from the University of Plymouth:

And since graphene lacks band-gap, which allows electrical signals to be switched on and off using silicon in digital electronics, academics say it seems most applicable for applications ranging from next generation high-speed transistors and amplifiers for mobile phones and satellite communications to ultra-sensitive biological sensors.

Read the full article.

“An accurate understanding of the electromagnetic properties of graphene over a broad range of frequencies (from direct current to over 10 GHz) has been an important quest for several groups around the world,” said Shakil Awan, leader of the study. “Initial measurements gave conflicting results with theory because graphene’s intrinsic properties are often masked by much larger interfering signals from the supporting substrate, metallic contacts and measurement probes. Our results for the first time not only confirm the theoretical properties of graphene but also open up many new applications of the material in high-speed electronics and bio-sensing.”

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