Researchers create useful and resilient graphene by mirroring cork.
Material engineering researchers Australia’s Monash University announced that they have discovered an effective way of forming graphene into useful three-dimensional forms by mirroring the structure of cork. Formed from one-atom thick graphite layers, graphene is strong, chemically stable and an excellent conductor of electricity. While the material has a wide range of potential applications, forming it into macroscopically-useable 3D structures has presented challenges.
“When the atomic graphene sheets are assembled together to form 3D structures, they normally end up with porous monoliths that are brittle and perform poorly,” said professor Dan Li of the department of materials engineering. “It was generally thought to be highly unlikely that graphene could be engineered into a form that was elastic, which means it recovers well from stress or pressure.”
To overcome this difficulty, the researchers used a method called freeze casting to form chemically modified graphene into a 3D structure that mimickes cork. The graphene blocks produced were lighter than air, able to support over 50,000 times their own weight, were good conductors of electricity but were also able to recover from more than 80 per cent deformation.
“We’ve been able to effectively preserve the extraordinary qualities of graphene in an elastic 3D form, which paves the way for investigations of new uses of graphene – from aerospace to tissue engineering,” professor Li said.