That's Some Strong Paper!
Using the same flaky material found in your everyday pencil — graphite — a research team from Northwestern University has developed a new type of superstrong, superthin paper that could be used as a hydrogen storage material in fuel cells, protective coating, chemical filter or an electrode in batteries. The researchers assembled particles of graphene oxide into very thin sheets by plunging them into specially treated water that caused them to bind into a paperlike layer.
The new sheets are highly flexible and stronger even than those made of carbon nanotube — making them ideal candidates for a new generation of composite materials — according to Rodney Ruoff, the lead scientist on the project. Unlike carbon nanotubes, they are also cheap and easy to fabricate. "The future is particularly bright because the system is very flexible ... The chemistry is almost infinite," he said.
The only significant downside to this paper is its vulnerability to water. Though the sheets remain stable when exposed to air, immersing them in water causes them to come apart as a result of the loosening of the graphene bonds. This, says Rice University materials scientist Boris Yakobson, could be a concern for sheets left out in the environment for long periods of time. The team's next step then is to find an alternative to water to use in the manufacturing process.
It's a shame we won't be able to take advantage of this new paper any time soon: Ruoff predicts that perfecting the technology and commercializing it will likely take at least another 5 to 10 years.
Via ::ScienceNOW: It's Super Paper! (news website), ::Technology Review: Ultrastrong Paper from Graphene (magazine)