07 June 2013

A busy week for four carbon bonds

Where graphene hits the headlines, and other nooks and crannies
Another week, and more news of weird stuff that four carbon bonds can get up to when they get properly organised. Over on the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) Materials group they write about Hybrid graphene flame retardants in epoxy improve fire and high temperature performance. Apart from the fact that it is yet another use of our wonder material, the interesting bit is the source of the work. As the KTN write up puts it “Lei Song from University of Science and Technology of China used an in-situ sol-gel process to make organic-inorganic hybrid flame retardants.” The item has a link to the paper in the Journal of Materials Chemistry A, which you’ll have to pay for.
The China connection is just another sign of the attention that the local research community is lavishing on us. Of 614 papers that mention graphene in a random selection of publications retrieved over the past decade from the IoPP’s fine library 88 mention the “People’s Republic of China”.
Boiling under
Always nice to see someone finding a new use for graphene, as in another paper from Nature Scientific Reports. Here’s another one with a safety angle. A Novel Role of Three Dimensional Graphene Foam to Prevent Heater Failure during Boiling, describes “a novel boiling heat transfer in reduced graphene oxide suspended in water near critical heat flux, which is traditionally the dangerous limitation of nucleate boiling heat transfer because of heater failure”. The writers claim that this phenomenon “would provide the safer margin of the heat transfer and the amazing impact on the thermal system as the first report of graphene application”. The bottom line, they say, is that “This novel boiling phenomenon can effectively prevent heater failure because of the role played by the self-assembled three-dimensional foam-like graphene network.”
Strong stuff
Even engineers of a decidedly mucky nature are muscling in on graphene. Those fine observers of everything manufacturing over at The Manufacturer have found a story from Columbia University. Following the trail we get to the original item “Even with Defects, Graphene Is Strongest Material in the World”. This then leads us to a paper in Science where the more prosaic title “High-Strength Chemical-Vapor–Deposited Graphene and Grain Boundaries” explains why The Manufacturer liked the item. The paper tells us that even graphene of a less than pristine nature – “polycrystalline and thus contain grain boundaries” – is still strong stuff, as strong as the scientifically pure graphene so long as “post-processing steps avoid damage or rippling”.
Elephant memory
We’ve been here before it seems. The latest Columbia paper is a follow up to a five-year old publication from the same group that gave us the press release “Columbia Engineers Prove Graphene is Strongest Material”. It was this release that arrived with the quote from James Hone “It would take an elephant, balanced on a pencil, to break through a sheet of graphene the thickness of Saran Wrap.” (This is believed to be a local reference to what Brits might call ‘clingfilm’.)
Apple files patent
The newshounds over at New Scientist spotted a patent application from Apple that could see graphene in heat sinks for portable electronic devices. The patent’s claims include:
“A method for facilitating the use of a portable electronic device, comprising-  arranging a set of components and a battery within an enclosure of the portable electronic device; disposing a heat dissipator comprising graphene over a surface of the battery; and providing thermal contact between one or more of the components and the heat dissipator.”
Few patents make it into production. If this one does, will Apple pay taxes on anything that comes from this invention?
Electrodes on the brain
Nanotechnology, the journal, has a more substantial offering on graphene in electronics in The application of graphene as electrodes in electrical and optical devices. With all of the authors working in Korea, where they make electronic stuff by the container load, there’s a better chance that this work, a review of activity in the area, will see light of day. Clearly people are reading this paper: published last year, when we last looked it was number two in the list on the journal’s home page of papers “most read” in the past 30 days.

Makes you wonder
Hard to know what to make of this “case study” from EPSRC. no doubt about the subject The wonder stuff but the PDF says no more than the minimal text on the page. there isn’t even a live link to the people the page describes. So we had to get Google to take us to Durham Graphene Science. It turns out to be a spinout from Durham University that has “developed a novel process for the manufacture of high specification graphene”. Smart move: in the early days any money to be made from graphene will go to people making the stuff and selling kit to the research community. Not much in the way of news since 2011 though.
A sort of battery
Spinouts are de rigeur for enterprising academics these days. Indeed, it looks like our four carbon bonds have sparked off a new business sector, the graphene battery. There is even a new company out there exploiting their tricks. Graphene Batteries, based in Oslo, “is engaged in development of safe and durable graphene based high energy battery materials”. The idea is to assemble “a key technology IP-portfolio for future licensing and production”.
Another company with a finger in the battery business is Lomiko Metals Inc. Lomiko, which has its own graphite mines, recently put out a press release on a collaboration with the Research Foundation of Stony Brook University and Graphene Laboratories, Inc. “to investigate novel, energy-focused applications for graphene” with a specific mention of batteries. The release tells us that “the goal of this collaboration is to map commercially viable routes for the fabrication of graphene-based energy storage devices”.
Graphene Laboratories, based on Long Island, New York, describes itself as “a world leading manufacturer and supplier of graphene products to R&D markets”. So the business reflects the level of maturity, or lack of it, of the graphene market. Perhaps it won’t be long before R&D becomes R, D & D (that’s research, development and demonstration) with the usual order-of-magnitude rise in the costs of projects.
In the picture
There’s another patent application in the works (see Apple above) for a neat use of our slithery carbon bonds, this time from a university group. Laser Focus World tells us that over at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore Assistant Professor Wang Qijie has come up with a graphene based image sensor that will allow cameras “to take clear and sharp photos in dim conditions”. The NYU press release optimistically proclaims that we’ll see this development “soon”. The trick was to “create nanostructures on graphene which will “trap” light-generated electron particles for a much longer time, resulting in a much stronger electric signal”.

Professor Wang Qijie slides on graphene that can see in the dark
How facile can you get?
It is always entertaining trying to work out just what the titles of papers mean when they give us a plug. Here’s one that provokes several lines of thought “Facile, scalable synthesis of edge-halogenated graphene nanoplatelets as efficient metal-free eletrocatalysts for oxygen reduction reaction”. It comes from Nature Scientific Reports which, as an open access journal, is free for all to read and ponder.
The journal is a regular source of papers about graphene. Here’s one with an intriguing title Highly Sensitive and Selective Gas Sensor Using Hydrophilic and Hydrophobic Graphenes. This time you can see that we are into sensor territory. Oh, yes, the paper’s authors are in Korea.
EuroGRAPHENE’s final fling
They have been thinking about graphene in Strasbourg, where the European Science Foundation (ESF) put together EuroGRAPHENE, “the first coordinated European-wide cooperation on graphene science and technology”. The programme ends this year so the ESF has put together a report on Scientific Highlights (a 2.7 MB PDF file that you can shrink to half that size with the right software!). It lists seven Collaborative Research Projects carried out all over Europe. Well most of Europe, not much in there from the UK.
Far from weak ending
The IoPP rounds up a working week of papers with another interesting title Direct writing on graphene 'paper' by manipulating electrons as 'invisible ink. Again, the source is the journal
, with authors from the Department of Energy Conversion and Storage at the Technical University of Denmark, and Beijing Key Laboratory of Green Chemical Reaction Engineering and Technology at Tsinghua University.
As the abstract puts it “The combination of self-assembly (bottom up) and nano-imprint lithography (top down) is an efficient and effective way to record information at the nanoscale by writing.” The researchers say that they achieved “Direct high precision microscopic writing on graphene … through an EDX line scan with 1 nm probe in STEM mode”. They sum up their achievements with the observation “These results not only shed new light on an application of graphene concerning the interaction of different forms of carbon but also illuminate the interaction of forms of carbon through an electron beam.”
This is just one of a batch of four papers in the journal. Also check out Control of density and LSPR of Au nanoparticles on graphene, Intrinsic loss due to unstable modes in graphene and Control of density and LSPR of Au nanoparticles on graphene.
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