Hair dye: now with graphene to take away the frizz

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<em>The black hair was dyed with the graphene-based hair dye. </em>

In a quest to make a less toxic hair dye, scientists created a dye using graphene. And it has an added bonus — it tames static frizz, according to new research.

Most permanent hair dyes use harsh chemicals to open up the outside layer of the hair so that other chemicals can get inside and change its color, Chemical & Engineering News reports. A team of researchers at Northwestern University decided to use a different strategy: Instead of opening up the hair, why not just coat it with tiny colored particles made out of graphene?

Graphene is basically a super-thin form of graphite — the same mineral as your pencil — where all the atoms lie next to each other in a single plane. It’s also flexible and super strong. (“It would take an…

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Graphene Could Be the Superconductor Scientists Always Dreamed Of

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In a potentially groundbreaking new study, scientists have discovered how to make a graphene superconductor in the material’s natural state. These researchers found that two graphene layers on top of one another can conduct electrons with zero resistance if they are twisted at a “magic angle.”

Researchers brought this incredible property out of graphene almost by accident. They were exploring what the orientation known as the “magic angle,” or 1.1 degrees, would do to graphene; theories have long predicted that offsetting atoms in layers of 2D material by 1.1 degrees would make electrons behave interestingly, but scientists haven’t known just how interestingly.

After the researchers applied a small electric field the two sheets became a superconductor, and continued to display these properties in multiple experiments. “We have produced all of this in different devices and measured it with collaborators. This is something in which we’re very confident,” said Pablo Jarillo-Herrero, a physicist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), to Nature.

Two layers of graphene, twisted at an angle of 1.1º (right) show superconducting properties. Image Credit: MIT researchers
Two layers of graphene, twisted at an angle of 1.1º (right) show superconducting properties. Image Credit: MIT researchers

Scientists have known about graphene’s incredible conductive abilities for a while; in fact, just last year, scientists achieved superconductive abilities in graphene by doping the material with calcium atoms. However, this is the first time superconductivity has been accomplished without altering graphene.

Not only did these physicists achieve superconductivity, but they may have reached an elusive and ultra-powerful form of superconductivity known as p-wave state. This has yet to be confirmed, but it is an intriguing possibility.

Another reason this discovery, published in two Nature papers, is so exciting is that it could be the key to eventually developing a superconductor that can work at room temperature. Most superconductors only work at temperatures close to absolute zero. In fact, the warmest temperatures in which current superconductors can operate is around −140 degrees Celsius. Cooling superconductors is not only impractical for larger-scale use; it is also difficult and expensive.

Superconductors running at room temperature could make everything from medical technology to main power grids and personal electronics more efficient. Once thought to be impossibly expensive to produce on a large scale, producing and using graphene for larger projects is now attainable. These studies are only the first to explore the abilities of a purely graphene superconductor, but the potential of this supermaterial seems truly astounding.

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Scientists Use Graphene to Create Edible Electronics

James Tour believes anything can be turned into graphene — well, anything with the right carbon content, that is.

For the past few years, the Rice University chemist’s lab has investigated new and innovative ways to use graphene, a so-called “miracle material,” and for their latest research, they developed a method of imprinting graphene patterns onto objects.

Graphene: The Miracle Material of the Future [INFOGRAPHIC]
Click to View Full Infographic

The team’s laser-induced graphene (LIG) tags comprise only a few layers of single-atom-thick graphene, which is produced out of the materials already present in an object. “This is not ink,” said Tour in a press release. “This is taking the material itself and converting it into graphene.”

The LIG tags can be burned into paper, cardboard, cloth, and cork, and the process takes place at room temperature. The LIG patterns can be used as supercapacitors, biological sensors, radio-frequency ID antennae, or even electrocatalysts for fuel cells.

The researchers also discovered they could embed ID tags and sensors onto certain foods, including coconut shells, potatoes, and toast. This discovery isn’t all that surprising given that Tour’s lab seems to have a penchant for combining food and science — in 2011, they even turned Girl Scout cookies into graphene.

If put into practice, the edible graphene tags could be used to track information about a food item.

“Very often, we don’t see the advantage of something until we make it available,” said Tour. “Perhaps all food will have a tiny RFID tag that gives you information about where it’s been, how long it’s been stored, its country and city of origin, and the path it took to get to your table.”

The tags could also be used for food safety, for example, by warning a consumer if bacteria like E. coli has been detected. “They could light up and give you a signal that you don’t want to eat this,” said Tour. “All that could be placed not on a separate tag on the food, but on the food itself.”

No word yet on how these edible graphene tags taste.

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Hundreds of 2D Materials Could be the Next Graphene

Finding Supermaterials

Graphene, the famous one-atom-thick superconductor, might soon be part of a broader family, as scientists have discovered hundreds of other equally-thin, 2-dimensional materials with comparable properties.

In a study published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, scientists from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland used a unique computer program to scour open databases — such as the Crystallography Open Database — to find materials comparable to graphene. Specifically, they were looking for materials that are exfoliable, namely that have the ability to separate into super-thin 2-dimensional sheets as graphite does when turning into graphene.

After chiseling away at a pile of more than 100,000 crystal structures, the team identified 1,825 compounds that could form layers one-atom-thick. Some of these structures had never been seen before. This boiled down to a final list of 258 less complex compounds — 166 of which are semiconductors, 92 metallic, and 56 displaying unusual magnetism.

Future applications

According to the research team, “only a very small fraction of possible 2D materials has been considered up to now.” But with the team’s custom computer program and an enormous catalog to sort through, the researchers have shown that there are materials whose properties we have overlooked.

Now, scientists are excited at the prospect of discovering other strong, flexible, graphene-like materials, but what practical applications could these alternatives actually have? While mass-producing graphene may be within reach, for now it remains quite difficult and expensive to create. Comparable graphene alternatives could potentially be easier or cheaper to produce, and could be better suited to particular electronic purposes. So, while graphene remains the best bet when it comes to designing future technologies, exploring other options may have notable advantages.

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Graphene film makes dirty water drinkable in a single step

Every year, millions of people around the world die from drinking unclean water. Now, researchers have developed a process that can purify water, no matter how dirty it is, in a single step. Scientists from Australian research organization CSIRO have…
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Inkjet-Printed Graphene Could Pave the Way for Tomorrow’s Washable Wearables

Washable Electronics

Wearables are at the forefront of consumer electronics — smartwatches that send text messages, fitness bands that track calories, and smart glasses that can help with facial recognition. But not all wearables are happy when they get soaked. Now, a new technology has opened the door to washable, wearable electronics. Engineers from Iowa State University have developed a graphene printing technology that can print low-cost electric circuits onto flexible materials that are both extremely conductive and water repellant.

Graphene is a single layer of carbon atoms that are bonded together in a hexagonal honeycomb configuration. This super material can not only hold up an elephant without breaking, but is also an effective conductor of heat and electricity. So these new circuits would be both thin and remarkably water resistant, and incorporate graphene’s super conductivity. According to the engineers’ paper, published in the journal Nanoscale, this technology “would lend enormous value to self-cleaning wearable/washable electronics that are resistant to stains, or ice and biofilm formation.”

The inkjet-printed flakes of graphene aren’t conductive to start off, so the researchers weld the flakes together to increase conductivity. In order to treat the graphene without damaging the surface it’s printed on, however, the research team developed a rapid-pulse laser process. That laser technology also enables the team to craft water-repelling, or hydrophobic, circuits. “The laser aligns the graphene flakes vertically – like little pyramids stacking up. And that’s what induces the hydrophobicity,” said Jonathan Claussen, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Iowa State University and corresponding author, in a press release.

Claussen and his co-authors say their laser processing technology could lay the groundwork for new applications. It could be used in everything from flexible electronics to technology that use graphene and electrical stimulation to create stem cells to regenerate nerves.

One of the authors, Loreen Stromberg, an Iowa State University postdoctoral research associate in mechanical engineering, said the group would be interested in developing is anti-biofouling materials. Biofouling, or the accumulation of damaging plants and algae on wet surfaces, impacts submerged equipment like chemical sensors. Stromberg thinks anti-biofouling materials that utilize these water-repellant circuits could prevent that type of build-up.

Electronics and wearables are becoming ubiquitous in our society, and the technology to support those wearables must evolve quickly to keep up. One of the logical next steps for this technology is to be both wearable and washable, and this new graphene printing technology could pave the way.

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University of Manchester researchers develop graphene sensors for IoT

university of manchester graphene iot sensor rfid technology

Researchers at The University of Manchester have developed graphene sensors that can be embedded into Radio Frequency Identification (RFID). The team has used the breakthrough to devise remote humidity sensors capable of drawing power from any wireless network. 

RFID tags are most commonly used to track and identify objects as they travel through a supply chain. But when embedded with sensors, they can detect and transmit information regarding temperature, movement and even radiation – without the need for a dedicated source of power.

Not all environments are suitable for conventional methods of data gathering. Some are wet, some are hazardous. Some are just inconvenient. When combined with sensors, RFID technology enables data to be more easily collected from these locations. The RFID devices harvest power from local wireless networks and transmit information back to a central IT system.

A team of researchers from the University of Manchester have developed RFID systems embedded with graphene sensors, which they propose have the potential to ‘revolutionise the Internet of Things’.

Read more: Cisco and Manchester Science Partnership open Mi-IDEA centre

Graphene RFID sensors: low-cost option for mass production

In 2004, researchers at the same university isolated graphene as the world’s first two-dimensional material. It is stronger than steel, lightweight, flexible and more conductive than copper. Ever since, the challenge has been to find real-world applications for the technology.

In a paper published to Scientific Reports, Manchester University researchers unveil a design that layers a derivative of graphene, graphene oxide, to form flexible heterostructure humidity sensors that can connect to and garner power from any wireless network.

Using graphene and other 2D materials, the team has been able to stack layers of these materials in sequences that create high-performance structures.

Read more: IoT devices soon could be powered by graphene

RFID sensors to track moisture, food safety and nuclear waste

RFID sensors are central to the future of the IoT. This latest development from the University of Manchester could pave the way for a range of applications. These include battery-free, wireless monitoring in manufacturing environments sensitive to moisture, food safety during transit, healthcare and nuclear waste.

Dr Zhirun Hu, who led the project, pointed out that this was only the beginning. “The excitement does not end with this new application here, but leads to the future possibilities of integrations of this technique with other 2D materials to open up a new horizon of wireless sensing applications.”

Professor Sir Kostya Novoselov, a winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics and coordinator of the project, highlighted the importance of 2D materials to the future of the IoT.

“It is the first example of the printable technology where several 2D materials come together to create a functional device immediately suitable for industrial applications. The Internet of Things is the fast growing segment of technology, and I’m sure that 2D materials will play an important role there.”

Read more: Researchers on ISS set to explore manufacturing in space

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Two Layers of Graphene Make Diamond-Hard Armor That Can Stop a Bullet

Diamond-Hard Armor

The media tends to depict bullet-proof armor as something that’s thick and heavier than regular clothes. Despite being for bodily protection, the added bulk of that armor might restrict a person’s movements. But scientists at the City University of New York’s Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) have found that diamond-hard armor doesn’t need to be thick. The key to less-bulky protection is graphene, a tightly-packed layer of bonded carbon atoms one million times thinner than a piece of paper.

The researchers discovered that two layers of graphene stacked on top of one another can temporarily become as hard as diamond — and just as impenetrable — when struck by, say, a bullet. The hardening of the new material, called diamene, only happens when exactly two sheets of graphene are layered together, according to the study published in Nature Nanotechnology. When more sheets were added, the hardening effect didn’t happen.

“Previously, when we tested graphite or a single atomic layer of graphene, we would apply pressure and feel a very soft film,” explained Elisa Riedo, professor of physics at the ASRC and lead project researcher, on the research center’s website. “But when the graphite film was exactly two-layers thick, all of a sudden we realized that the material under pressure was becoming extremely hard and as stiff, or stiffer, than bulk diamond.”

Future Warfare

The team’s research could be used for more than just armor, and may be used in the development of wear-resistant protective coatings as well.

This isn’t the first attempt to lighten protective armor. In May 2017, Cadet 1st Class Hayley Weir and her professor Ryan Burke at the Air Force Academy created a substance that could stop bullets fired at close range, and could be used to make lightweight armor.

It will be interesting to see how this impacts the future of warfare. Soldiers wearing lightweight armor that makes them almost impervious to bullets would likely cause militaries around the world to shift to other weaponry. We know the United States is looking at laser weapons, while Russia is reportedly designing a missile controlled by artificial intelligence. Ironically, effective bullet-proof armor won’t count for much if no one’s using bullets anymore.

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Graphene Running Shoes Could up Your Jogging Potential

Graphene Sneakers

Graphene is a wonder-material that has revealed remarkable properties in experimentation, shocking scientists with its superconducting, superstrength abilities. Now, it’s also the leading ingredient in an upcoming commercial line of running shoes.

The combined brainchild of The University of Manchester and British sportswear brand inov-8 will use the one-atom-thick material to deliver running shoes that are more flexible and durable than any seen before.

Graphene, weighing in at roughly 200 times stronger than steel, was heated and added in particle-sized bits to the soles of the shoes.

“When added to the rubber used in inov-8’s G-Series shoes, graphene imparts all its properties, including its strength,” Dr. Aravind Vijayaraghavan of the University of Manchester said in a statement. “Our unique formulation makes these outsoles 50 percent stronger, 50 percent more stretchy and 50 percent more resistant to wear than the corresponding industry standard rubber without graphene.”

Remarkable Applications

Graphene has been touted as the most incredible material on planet Earth. The “miracle material,” as some have called it, is as thin as it is possible to make a material while at the same time being an incredible conductor and a remarkable barrier. It seems as though scientists discover another mind-bending property it holds every other week.

Graphene: The Miracle Material of the Future [INFOGRAPHIC]
Click to View Full Infographic

Its first commercial use, the creation of these running shoes, seems like a perfect fit. Because of its lightweight, flexible, über-strong nature, it has the potential to create the best running shoes on the planet. But the material’s applications could extend well beyond just running shoes.

Its stunning potential in wearables in general spans all sectors and even includes remarkable medical applications. There are some who think that it truly has the power to change the world.

While these running shoes are just one of many potential applications, they are the first publicly-accessible, commercial use of graphene. Perhaps the release of these shoes will be the tip of the iceberg for graphene-based super-products.

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