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.

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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.

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“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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Graphene Simplifies Ice Removal

Graphene ice removal

Through a nanoribbon-infused epoxy, researchers were able to remove ice through Joule heating.
Image: Rice University

Graphene, better known as the wonder material, has seemingly limitless possibilities. From fuel cells to night-vision to hearing, there aren’t many areas that graphene hasn’t touched. Now, researchers from Rice University and transforming graphene for uses in air travel safety.

James Tour, past ECS lecturer and molecular electronics pioneer, has led a team in developing a thin coating of graphene nanoribbons to act as a real-time de-icer for aircrafts, wind turbines, and other surfaces exposed to winter weather.

(MORE: Read “High-Density Storage, 100 Times Less Energy“)

Through electrothermal heat, the graphene nanoribbons melted centimeter-thick ice on a static helicopter rotor blade in a -4° Fahrenheit environment.

This from Rice University:

The nanoribbons produced commercially by unzipping nanotubes, a process also invented at Rice, are highly conductive. Rather than trying to produce large sheets of expensive graphene, the lab determined years ago that nanoribbons in composites would interconnect and conduct electricity across the material with much lower loadings than traditionally needed.

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“Applying this composite to wings could save time and money at airports where the glycol-based chemicals now used to de-ice aircraft are also an environmental concern,” Tour said.

The coating may also protect aircrafts from lightning strikes and provide and extra layer of electromagnetic shielding.

Potential of the Graphene Microphone

From solar cells to fuel cells to body armor, graphene has more potential applications than one could briefly summarize. Now, this wonder material is entering into a new realm of possibility.

According to new research from the University of Belgrade in Serbia, graphene has amazing sound detection qualities. Because of this, the researchers have developed the world’s first graphene-based condenser microphone. At about 32 times the strength of some of today’s best microphones, the graphene-based device has the ability to detect a range of audible frequencies. Further, the researchers believe that with a little more tweaking, it will be able to pick up sound that is well beyond the range of human hearing.

This from Gizmodo:

The researchers used a chemical vapor deposition process to “grow” sheets of graphene on a nickel foil substrate. They then etched the nickel away and placed the remaining graphene sheet (about 60 layers thick) in a commercial microphone casing. There, it acts as a vibrating membrane, converting sound to electric current.

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Graphene for Next-Gen Night Vision

Graphene is called the “wonder material” with good reason. The material hosts a slew of unique chemical and physical properties, with applications from fuel cells to biomedical to energy storage.

Now, a team from MIT is taking the material and applying it to infrared sensors to create next-gen night vision goggles. Additionally, the team is looking to take that same technology and apply it to high-tech windshields and smartphones.

We achieve night vision capabilities through thermal imaging that allows people to see otherwise invisible infrared rays that are shed as heat. This technology is useful for many different applications, such as assisting soldiers and firefighters in their duty. While night vision devices currently exist, they need bulky cooling systems to create a useful image.

Because of graphene’s electrical qualities, researchers have known that the material would be an excellent infrared detector. The team at MIT took this idea and moved forwarding in creating a less bulky night vision goggle through the utilization of graphene.

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Introducing Graphene’s Cousin: Stanene

Stanene-LatticeResearchers made a prediction two years ago that a one-atom thick, tin super material would soon be developed. They believed that this mesh material would yield amazing advances for materials science and be able to conduct electricity with 100 percent efficiency. Now, those same researchers are making good on their prediction with the announcement of the newly developed film called stanene.

Theoretically, potential uses of this material could range from circuit structures to transistors.

Cousin to graphene, this lattice of carbon atoms has similar qualities to a host of other materials, but scientists predict stanene to have a special kick that no other material has yet.

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Mario Hofmann of National Cheng Kung University shows the example set up of electrochemical synthesis.
Image: Mario Hofmann/IOP Publishing

Graphene has been affectionately coined the “wonder material” due to its strength, flexibility, and conductive properties. The theoretical applications for graphene have included the five-second phone charge, chemical sensors, a way to soak up environmentally harmful radioactive waste, and even the potential to improve your tennis game. While everyone has big expectations for the wonder material, it’s still struggling to find its place in the world of materials science.

However, a team of researchers may have found a way to expand graphene’s potential and make it more applicable to tangible devices and applications. Through a simple electrochemical approach, researchers have been able to alter graphene’s electrical and mechanical properties.

Technically, the researchers have created a defect in graphene that can make the material more useful in a variety of applications. Through electrochemical synthesis, the team was able to break graphite flakes into graphene layers of various size depending on the level of voltage used.

The different levels of voltage not only changed the material’s thickness, it also altered the flake area and number of defects. With the alternation of these three properties, the researchers were able to change how the material acts in different functions.

“Whilst electrochemistry has been around for a long time it is a powerful tool for nanotechnology because it’s so finely tuneable.” said Mario Hofmann, a researcher at National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan, in a press release. “In graphene production we can really take advantage of this control to produce defects.”

The defected graphene shows promising potential for polymer fillers and battery electrodes. Researchers also believe that by revealing and utilizing the natural defects in graphene, strides could be made in biomedical technology such as drug delivery systems.

The development of ultralight, ultrathin solar cells is on the horizon due to a new semiconductor call phosphorene.

A team of researchers from Australian National University have developed an atom-thick layer of black phosphorus crystals through a process that utilizes sticky tape.

“Because phosphorene is so thin and light, it creates possibilities for making lots of interesting devices, such as LEDs or solar cells,” said lead researcher Dr. Yuerui (Larry) Lu.

The fabrication of this phosphorene is similar to that of graphene, bringing the new material to a thickness of just 0.5 nanometers. With phosphorene’s novel properties, doors are opening for a new generation of solar cells and LEDs.

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Li-Ion Battery with Double the Life

Two-dimensional layered structure of graphene and its silicon carbide-free integration with silicon can serve as a prototype in advancing silicon anodes to commercially viable technology.Source: Nature Communications

Two-dimensional layered structure of graphene and its silicon carbide-free integration with silicon can serve as a prototype in advancing silicon anodes to commercially viable technology.
Source: Nature Communications

Researchers from various institutes across Korea have found a way to nearly double the life of the lithium-ion battery.

In an ever-pressing race to create a more efficient and longer-lasting battery for electronics, researchers across the globe are looking toward alternative materials to make the li-ion battery stronger. A team of researchers associated with Samsung’s Advanced Institute of Technology, including ECS member Jang Wook Choi, have combined silicon and graphene to yield an amazing increase in lithium-ion battery efficiency.

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Graphene’s New Role in Water-Splitting

5592616537473The topics of climate change and the energy crisis are on the minds of many scientists working in the fields of energy storage and conversion. When looking toward the future, the development of more efficient and effective energy storage technologies is critical. Instead of our traditional “carbon cycle,” researchers are beginning to focus on the “hydrogen cycle” as a promising alternative.

With this, there been a lot of focus on water-splitting techniques. However, there are many challenges that this technology has to overcome before it reaches efficient levels on a large scale.

In order to help address complications associated with water-splitting, ECS member Qiang Zhang is leading a research group from Tsinghua University to help get closer to the ultimate goal of the “hydrogen cycle” by developing a novel graphene/metal hydroxide composite with superior oxygen evolution activity.

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