23 July 2013

Rice University knows its #graphene onions

Last week looked like being quiet on the PR front for graphene until EurekAlert! delivered Graphene 'onion rings' have delicious potential. The researchers, from the Tour Group and the Yakobson Research Group at Rice University, claim that this is “the first time anyone has synthesized graphene nanoribbons on metal from the bottom up -- atom by atom”.

The shape of the ‘structural model’ of this form of graphene is supposed to have given them the idea for the ‘onion rings’ moniker. Maybe they grow their onions in a different shape in Texas.

The press release covers a paper, Hexagonal Graphene Onion Rings in the Journal of the American Chemical Society so you will have to pay to read it. (It really is a cheek putting out a press release for a paper without even offering to provide a copy “on request”.) The interesting bit in the abstract is that “This work reveals a new graphene-nucleation mechanism and could also offer impetus for the design of new 3D spatial structures of graphene or other 2D layered materials.”

The press release also provides a nice explanation of the growth processes and why these are important. There’s a nice quote in the release from James Tour “The big news here,” he said, “is that we can change relative pressures of the growth environment of hydrogen versus carbon and get entirely new structures. This is dramatically different from regular graphene.”

This latest research adds to a growing pile of papers, and press releases, from Tour’s group and Rice University. Back in 2009 he was talking about “a room-temperature chemical process that splits, or unzips, carbon nanotubes to make flat nanoribbons”. And most of the unzipped nanotubes turned into graphene ribbons. That paper, Longitudinal unzipping of carbon nanotubes to form graphene nanoribbons, even made the cover on Nature (see right). The journal has a nice take on that piece of research in its own news report (free to anyone) Nanotubes cut to ribbons.

A year later, Tour gave us “an environmentally friendly way to make bulk quantities of graphene oxide”. In 2011 it was “thin films that could revolutionize touch-screen displays, solar panels and LED lighting”. Both stories inspired press releases from the university. Just search for them on EurekAlert! Don't be surprised by how many hits you find. They really have been that active.

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