The all new Zeta pipette tips, which promise a breakthrough for all scientists that suffer from pipetting errors, will soon enter the laboratory market. These are graphene-based nanocomposite-coated tips that reduce electrical charges transferred to droplets of liquid during the pipetting process.
But graphene has a whole lot more to offer than just its reportedly high electrical conductivity. For example: graphene soaked bandages in the presence of hydrogen peroxide have been shown to have remarkable antibacterial activity in wounds with studies showing significant ability to kill bacteria in mice.
In fact, graphene is proving itself to be a ‘miracle material’ in many fields of science and technology.
However, the manufacturing of this strong and lightweight 2-D material on an industrial scale remains a major hurdle to growth in its wider utilisation. Scientists are therefore exploring simple and effective ways to synthesise and purify graphene.
Dr Leigh Javis, a senior lecturer in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of KwaZulu Natal is currently working on producing carbon nanotubes in a microwave oven as part of his research in areas of carbon nanotubes and superconductivity. He is also experimenting with synthesising graphene from…sticky tape!
This is also known as the ‘scotch tape’ method, which produces high quality graphene. Developed by scientists Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov at the University of Manchester, it involves the detaching of graphene from graphite by simply using adhesive tape. The multiple layers of graphene that remain on the tape can then be cleaved into smaller flakes by repetitively peeling them with unused tape. It is possible then to obtain flakes of varying sizes from nanometers to tens of micrometers.
Another way of generating graphene is by making a rough pencil sketch on a piece of paper. Since the core of a pencil is made of graphite, a simple HB pencil will do. An eraser can then be used to remove sheets of graphite at a time, ultimately leaving behind single graphene sheets. While an appropriate microscope will help to guide this process, it is a far cry from complicated chemical methods to synthesise graphene, reportedly the world’s strongest known material.
Writer: Mpho Mosia
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