Graphene Repair Thyself.

Graphene Repair ThyselfThe graphene revolution is upon us. If the visionaries are to be believed, the next generation of more or less everything is going to be based on this wonder material–sensors, actuators, transistors and information processors and so on. There seems little that graphene can't do.

Graphene, the 21st century miracle material that may one day lead us out of the Great Recession and Great Stagnation, has revealed yet another miracle property to the scientists at the University of Manchester, England, who “discovered” graphene in 2004. Unlike the proverbial physician, graphene really can heal itself. This special property has no practical use today, but I’d wager a king’s ransom that within a decade it will have many practical uses.

My guess is that UM has just answered many prayers at competing research establishments around the world, not least among the military, where self-healing, super strong, lightweight graphene, offers a treasure trove of next generation fighting platforms.

Graphene Repairs Holes By Knitting Itself Back Together, Say Physicists
Make a hole in graphene and the material will heal itself, say materials scientists who have watched the process in action
Tuesday, July 10, 2012

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—- That's largely because it's tricky growing anything into a layer only a single atom thick. But for carbon, it's all the more difficult because of this element's affinity to other atoms, including itself. A carbon sheet will happily curl up and form a tube or a ball or some more exotic shape. It will also react with other atoms nearby, which prevents growth and can even tear graphene apart.

So a better understanding of the way a graphene sheet interacts with itself and its environment is crucial if physicists are ever going to tame this stuff.    

Enter Konstantin Novoselov at the University of Manchester and a few pals who have spent more than a few hours staring at graphene sheets through an electron microscope to see how it behaves.

Today, these guys say they've discovered why graphene appears so unpredictable. It turns out that if you make a hole in graphene, the material automatically knits itself back together again.

—- Novoselov and co say the structure of the repaired area depends on the form in which the carbon is available. So when available as a hydrocarbon, the repairs tend to contain non-hexagonal defects where foreign atoms have entered the structure.

But when the carbon is available in pure form, the repairs are perfect and form pristine graphene.

That's important because it immediately suggests a way to grow graphene into almost any shape using the careful injection of metal and carbon atoms.

Graphene re-knits its holes
Recep Zan, Quentin M. Ramasse, Ursel Bangert, Konstantin S. Novoselov

(Submitted on 5 Jul 2012)

Nano-holes, etched under an electron beam at room temperature in singlelayer graphene sheets as a result of their interaction with metalimpurities, are shown to heal spontaneously by filling up with either non-hexagon, graphene-like, or perfect hexagon 2D structures. Scanning transmission electron microscopy was employed to capture the healing process and study atom-by-atom the re-grown structure. A combination of these nano-scale etching and re-knitting processes could lead to new graphene tailoring approaches.

Comments:     11 pages, 4 figures

Konstantin Novoselov
AKA Konstantin S. Novoselov

Russian-British physicist Konstantin Novoselov studied mesoscopic physics, a sub-discipline of condensed matter physics, under Andre Geim, and conducted post-doctoral research with Geim at the University of Manchester. Novoselov and Geim won the Nobel Prize in 2010, sharing the honor and 10 million Swedish kronor (about $1.5M) for their investigations of graphene, a monolayer of carbon atoms.

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