Scientists Create Crystalline Wonder Material, Graphene, in Kitchen Blender
Category: SCIENCE
Tags: Cristalline allotrope Graphene Kitchen blender

An illustration of a graphene sheet at the atomic scale. Photo: iStock

By Amina Khan, LATimes, April 22, 2014 –

Kids, do not try this at home: scientists have found that they can create high-quality graphene sheets using a kitchen blender and ordinary dishwasher detergent.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Materials, outline a fresh way to create large amounts of this remarkable material – which could speed up the process of putting them into future computers, smart coatings and solar cells.

Graphene is a two-dimensional lattice of hexagons made up of graphite, the most stable form of carbon under standard conditions. The carbon atoms join to create these single-layer, crystalline sheets with extraordinary properties. It's strong but light (which is why it's used in carbon-fibre bicycle frames), conducts both heat and electricity extremely well and is nearly transparent in its purest form.

It's a "wonder material", according to the American Physical Society, "a million times thinner than paper, stronger than diamond, more conductive than copper."

Graphene does occur naturally; the lead in your typical graphite pencil is made up of slippery layers of flat graphene sheets. But making the ultra pure graphene necessary for future applications is very difficult, particularly if you are trying to suspend the graphene flakes in a liquid – which would be useful to develop spray-on smart coatings.

Essentially, researchers have managed to create high-quality graphene in small amounts, or lower-quality graphene in larger amounts, but not large amounts of high-quality material.

"The commercial development of graphene and related two-dimensional materials is at present restrained by the lack of production techniques ready for industrial scale-up," James Tour of Rice University in Houston wrote in a commentary on the study.

A team of scientists led out of Trinity College, Dublin, came up with a way to take graphite powder, dump it in a laboratory blender with a surfactant mixture and create pure sheets of graphene at far larger quantities than previous methods, the scientists said.

In the future, with scaled-up processes, the production rate could easily be hundreds of times higher than many current outfits.

To test exactly how robust their method was, the scientists also tried the method using a Kenwood kitchen blender and dishwashing fluid and the process largely still worked.

"This clearly shows that even very crude mixers can produce well exfoliated graphene," study co-author Jonathan Coleman and colleagues wrote in the paper.

Tour, who was not involved in the paper, called the work "a hands-on guide for chemical and materials engineers practitioners to make assessments of cost and efficacy".

The findings are a significant step towards being able to mass produce high-quality graphene, which could help spur the development of graphene-related technology, the authors said.

"In the next decade, graphene will find commercial applications in many areas from high-frequency electronics to smart coatings," the authors wrote. "Some important classes of applications, such as printed electronics, conductive coatings and composite fillers, will require industrial-scale production of defect-free graphene in a processable form."

Los Angeles Times


Scientists growing body parts in laboratory
Category: SCIENCE

Scientists growing body parts in laboratoryDr Alexander Seifalian at University College London is the scientist leading the effort.

Dr Alexander Seifalian at University College London is the scientist leading the effort. 

British scientists are growing body parts in the laboratory in an effort to make organs using stem cells.

The endeavor is undertaken with a view to growing custom-made organs.

It includes tissue engineers making a synthetic frame or scaffold.

The frame, however, is not filled with a patient's own stem cells and grown in the laboratory before being finally transplanted in their bodies -- a time-consuming and expensive project.

Dr Alexander Seifalian at University College London is the scientist leading the effort. His laboratory at the UCL has drawn expertise from physicists, chemists and industrial engineers to create what he calls a nanocomposite material.

Doctors will take stem cells from the patient’s fat during the operation and inject it onto the synthetic frame of the ear which is then embedded under the skin.

According to Seifalian, "When you take the device, when you implant it, it captures the stem cells. So we didn't want to, you know to seed it (with) stem cells in the lab and then put it into the patient. That cost money, (it's) quite difficult and not every hospital could do that. So we made the instrument, this implant somehow bio-active to capture the stem cell in the blood, you know and become endotheliolized. So this is called in situ tissue engineering."

Seifalian's work was to be showcased on Tuesday as Mayor Boris Johnson was to announce a new initiative to attract investment to Britain's health and science sectors.


Nasa wants to capture an asteroid
Category: SCIENCE
Tags: Asteroid NASA

Nasa wants to capture an asteroid

Mechanical arms or even a big bag may be used to grab an asteroid and bring it to earth

By David Millward, The Telegraph UK – March 26, 2014

Grabbing hold of an asteroid is not easy Photo: NASA

The American space agency wants to work out how it can grab an asteroid or at least a large chunk of one.

Corralling a large piece of space rock is a key part of the agency’s Asteroid Grand Challenge and the Asteroid Redirect Mission.

Despite the damage caused by a meteor that exploded over Chelyabinsk last year, Nasa believes the earth is safe from an asteroid collision for at least a century.

But according to Lindley Johnson, the head of Nasa’s near earth observations programme, there is no room for complacency about asteroids.

“There are a lot out there which we need to find, which is what this programme is about.”

The mission has set itself a series of tasks, including redirecting an asteroid into a stable orbit beyond the moon, before sending a manned mission to explore it.

But ahead of that it wants to capture a small asteroid.

According to Jason Raboin, a member of Nasa’s capture team, the agency is looking at several potential techniques to lasso an asteroid.

But grabbing hold of an asteroid is not easy, partly because they rotate.

One option is to collect boulders or small asteroids with mechanical grabs, not unlike those used in amusement arcades.

An alternative is to devise an inflatable bag, which could envelop the asteroid or part of it.

This technique – known as TALISMAN – matches the spinning rate of its target asteroid.

It then uses its mechanical arms to stabilise the rock before shoving it into an inflatable bag.

Some of the samples will be brought back to earth for further analysis.

Even though there are thousands of asteroids, according to Nasa’s latest calculations only nine are considered suitable for boulder retrieval.

Getting an astronaut onto an asteroid by 2025 is seen as a staging post in an ambitious new wave of space exploration, said Charles Bolden, Nasa’s administrator.

President Barack Obama said he wants America to put astronauts on Mars, with spacecraft at least orbiting the planet by the mid 2030s.

According to Nasa, sending astronauts to an asteroid is a way of testing the technology that will be needed to make exploration of Mars viable.

“This is a tiny, tiny piece of getting humans on Mars. We need a proving ground.”

“The ultimate thing is to put boots on the ground on Mars, this is not a touch and go but we want people to live there.”



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