Chemists at the University of Illinois at Chicago say it's possible, reporting that graphene can become quite pliable using only a nanodroplet of water to do the job.
"Up until now, it wasn't thought we could controllably fold these structures," said Petr Král, assistant professor of chemistry at UIC. "But now we know how to shape graphene by using weak forces between nanodroplets carefully positioned on graphene sheets."
Král and two of his graduate students described the process in a recent article in Nano Letters, which is highlighted in Nature's "news and views" section Dec. 17.
Engineers already cut graphene into narrow ribbons and other shapes, expanding the set of carboneous systems such as fullerenes, carbon nanotubes and nano-diamonds. Using computer simulations, Král showed that weak molecular interactions called van der Waals forces between water nanodroplets and graphene can shape it into a wide variety of forms, without the water and graphene chemically binding.
"Depending on the size of the water droplet and the shape and size of graphene flake used, we can fold it in different shapes for various applications," said Král. "It's similar to the way proteins are folded in biological cells with the help of chaperone proteins."
Král and his students discovered they could use water droplets to roll, bend, slide and shape graphene into different complex structures such as capsules, sandwiches, knots and rings –- all potential building blocks of nanodevices with unique mechanical, electrical or optical properties. By using special techniques like atomic force microscopy and carefully guided microscopic needles, water droplets and other materials can be carefully positioned on graphene to shape it into desired forms, he says.
Král's laboratory is studying potential uses of nanoscale graphene, such as ways to coat it with phospholipid molecules that would allow it to become part of biological cell membranes where it might perform specific functions. His lab is also designing graphene sheet nanoscale pores that allow the building of novel ion and molecular separation membranes for use in desalination and other applications.
While the materials he works with are inorganic, Král sees a growing trend to developing hybrid multifunctional systems that combine inorganic nanostructures with biological cellular systems.
"We're trying to detect signals from the biological world or pass signals to the biological world," he said. "In the future, perhaps proteins will evolve to interact with inorganic systems. It's a way of evolution to form a new interface, or hybrid system, working together on novel functions."
The Nano Letters article was co-authored by Niladri Patra, a UIC chemistry doctoral student and first author on the paper, and former UIC doctoral student Boyang Wang, now a post-doctoral fellow at Northwestern University.
Král's research is supported by the National Science Foundation.
Paul Francuch | Newswise Science News
‘Farming’ bacteria to boost growth in the oceans
24.10.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für marine Mikrobiologie
Calcium Induces Chronic Lung Infections
24.10.2016 | Universität Basel
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
24.10.2016 | Earth Sciences
24.10.2016 | Life Sciences
24.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy