Monash leads graphene breakthrough
A team of researchers from Monash University have established, for the first time, an effective way of producing graphene, a substance which promises to revolutionise fields from computers to organ regeneration.
Led by Professor Dan Li, the study establishes how to form graphene, which normally exists in ultra-find layers, into useful 3D structures.
Graphene is formed when graphite is broken down into layers one atom thick. In this form, it is very strong, chemically stable and an excellent conductor of electricity. It has a wide range of potential applications, from batteries that are able to recharge in a matter of seconds, to biological tissue scaffolds for use in organ transplant and even regeneration.
"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," Professor Li said.
"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."
Using a method called freeze casting, the researchers were able to form chemically modified graphene into a 3D structure that mimicked cork. The graphene blocks produced were lighter than air, able to support over 50,000 times their own weight, good conductors of electricity and highly elastic - able to recover from over 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.