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Scientists Work Toward ‘Flawless’ Graphene

Monday, December 5, 2016

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Graphene has been touted as a super-strong nanomaterial that could change the world of coatings, providing a friction-free, wear-resistant coating layer that can prevent corrosion. But its large-scale production is far from perfect—a matter addressed by Dutch scientists’ new research into making predictable, “flawless” sheets of the material.

Universiteit Leiden researchers Dirk van Baarle and Joost Frenken, as part of van Baarle’s Ph.D. work, studied how graphene grows, in order to determine how the atom-thin carbon material can be produced at scale without weak spots.

Watching Graphene Form

“With the present production methods, a sheet of graphene is in practice almost always made up of a patchwork of small pieces that have been grafted onto one another,” the university explains. “Van Baarle was able to observe almost per carbon atom live how islands of graphene grow towards one another and how this process is influenced by temperature and substrate.”

Graphene structure
© iStock.com / Simfo

Van Baarle was able to observe, using a specialized microscope, the creation of a sheet of graphene, via the exposure of a sheet of iridium to ethylene gas at a super-hot fixed temperature.

Van Baarle was able to observe, using a specialized microscope, the creation of a sheet of graphene, via the exposure of a sheet of iridium to ethylene gas at a super-hot fixed temperature (around 1,290 degrees Fahrenheit). He determined that, while the carbon sheet that forms from the ethylene must be kept uniform, so must the iridium sheet, which also exhibits atomic-level changes that can affect how the graphene layer forms.

Van Baarle also studied friction at the atomic scale, observing the situations in which friction was most and least noticeable.

Graphene as Lubricant

Graphene is remarkable in its ability to reduce friction over a long period, as it is strong, adheres tightly to the substrate and reorients itself during initial wear cycles. It has already been demonstrated to be an effective lubricant, and could have wide-ranging applications if mass production is made more efficient. According to van Baarle, the lab he worked out of with Frenken, a nanomaterials expert, already uses graphene as a machine lubricant.

Graphene has shown promise as an anticorrosive agent, among many other applications.

   

Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Coating Materials; Colleges and Universities; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Graphene; Latin America; Nano and hybrid coatings; Nanotechnology; North America; Research; Research and development

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