8 potential uses of graphene – the ‘elusive’ wonder material

5) Ultrafiltration Systems –


Ultrafiltration generally entails a pressure-driven process in which synthetic membranes are used for segregating particular substances from a solvent (or water), thus leading to its filtration. In other words, the efficiency of the ultrafiltration process on the strength and thinness of the said membrane – both of which are crucially instrumental in dealing with pressure. To that end, researchers at the Columbia University have successfully been able to concoct monolayer graphene filters with individual pore sizes that are just 5 nanometers (nm) in size.

Taking advantage of graphene’s one atom thick structure, the layout of the monolayer is tailored to mitigating pressure. Moreover, the ‘tiny’ size of 5nm is pretty impressive if we consider that presently used advanced nanoporous membranes have pores of around 40 nm size. So, how does this achievement translate in terms of practicality? Well, the answer is – such modified filtraton layers can be used in a number of related fields, including water filtration systems, desalination systems and even biofuel making scopes.

6) Prevention Of Cancer Beyond Chemotherapy-


Researchers from University of Manchester and the University of Calabria have initiated a discovery that allows graphene oxide to directly mitigate generation of cancer stem cells (CSCs). In other words, the targeting done by graphene oxide can totally eschew chemotherapy – a process which is ineffective in dealing with the recurring incidences of tumors and metatasis.

The very ‘immortal’ nature of a CSC is even more exacerbated due its ability to mutate into a tumor-sphere, or multiple tumor cells. With such high stakes at hand, the scientists decided to use graphene oxide for the treatment scope. Consequently, they tested six different types of cancer cells (including breast, lung and prostrate), along with unaffected regular skin cells – with the latter being chosen to gauge the toxicity (or lack thereof) of graphene oxide. After passing of 48 hours, the results were encouraging to say the least, with the graphene compound being able to assuage the capabilities of CSC – by stopping their proliferation via protective spheres.

7) Flexible Electronics –


The University of Manchester once again makes its mark, and this time around, it is the tale of their collaboration with University of Sheffield. Together they have created a graphene-based LED device that can lead the way to the future prototype for semi-transparent, flexible yet more efficient displays made of 2D materials. In that regard, the team members have been able to construct a 10-40 atoms thick 2D LED semiconductor (by using heterostructures) with a composition of metallic graphene, boron nitride (with hexagonal structure) and stacked monolayers of other semiconductors.

As for the potential purpose of the breakthrough, this is what Nobel Laureate Sir Kostya Novoselov (who was also one of the imminent scientists responsible for the original isolation of graphene), had to say –

By preparing the heterostructures on elastic and transparent substrates, we show that they can provide the basis for flexible and semi-transparent electronics. The range of functionalities for the demonstrated heterostructures is expected to grow further on increasing the number of available 2D crystals and improving their electronic quality.

8) Fuel Cells –


As it turns out, ‘defective’ graphene has been found to allow swift passage of protons due to the so-called gaps present in its structure. This ‘accidental’ property could eventually lead to better and more efficient fuel cells. How so? Well, in terms of conventional proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells, one of the major drawbacks of the available technology is the lengthy process of isolating protons from hydrogen. In general, a polymer electrolyte membrane allows hydrogen ions (i.e. protons) to pass, while being impermeable to electrons. As these membranes are several hundred nanometres in thickness, the entire process of proton selection takes quite a long time to complete.

However, in the case of defective (two-dimensional) graphene, the scope of channeling the protons from one of its sides to the other, takes only seconds. This breakthrough can potentially lead to scenarios where electric cars are charged in the same time taken by a regular vehicle to be filled with gas. Furthermore, the electrochemical mechanism can account for advanced electric vehicles that are totally independent of power-grids – instead relying just on hydrogen as a fuel.

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