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News > 2010 Nobel Winner Andre Geim Explores New Graphene Property
2010 Nobel Winner Andre Geim Explores New Graphene Property

Posted 2/6/2012   Updated 2/6/2012 Email story   Print story

    


by Robert P. White, Ph.D.
Air Force Office of Scientific Research


2/6/2012 - ARLINGTON, Va. -- Andre Geim and his team at the University of Manchester continue the quest to uncover unique and unexpected graphene properties.

A mysterious new property of graphene has been discovered by one of the British Nobel Prize-winning scientists who first created what has been described as a new "wonder material."

It was less than two years ago that University of Manchester professors Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov won the 2010 Nobel physics prize for their pioneering work in isolating flakes of graphene, using nothing more sophisticated than simple adhesive tape.

Graphene is an ultra-thin sheet of carbon just one atom thick, and a chemical derivative of graphene--graphene oxide--is impermeable to all gases and liquids. But a research team led by Dr. Andre Geim has demonstrated a unique and surprising characteristic: membranes made from graphene oxide are superpermeable to water.

The research team discovered this curious attribute when they stacked graphene oxide sheets atop one another to form a laminate layer to test its effectiveness as a sealing agent against a variety of elements. This graphene oxide laminate barrier was so successful it even contained helium gas, which Dr. Geim characterizes as "hard to stop." But when the researchers tried the same with water, the molecules readily diffused through the graphene oxide membranes with ease. In fact, the evaporation rate was the same whether the container was sealed with the graphene oxide laminate or not.

This unique capability could be used in the design of filtration, separation or barrier membranes and the selective removal of water, or the distillation of alcohol, as well as the effective separation of hydrogen from liquid or gaseous mixtures for fuel production.

The London-based European Office of Aerospace Research and Development, a part of the Air Force Research Laboratory's Air Force Office of Scientific Research, has helped fund the Novoselov and Geim graphene basic effort since 2008.


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