Every scientist in the world knows about graphene – the atom-thick material first discovered a decade ago, and pegged to be the new wonder material. Many people have begun to doubt graphene would live up to its high expectations, but reports in both Nature and Science this week highlight promising new applications for the substance.
A report in Nature published online yesterday described the use of graphene as a proton transport material, as it was found that protons are able to pass through the material. This intriguing result could lead to graphene having potential a potential application as a membrane in hydrogen fuel cells, as current cells use thick polymer membranes which can leak protons and cause power losses. At the moment this is just a proof of concept, but if it could be scaled up and engineered successfully this could massively help the development of hydrogen fuel cells.
Meanwhile, an article published in Science today has proven that graphene is very resistant to damage by small silica ‘bullets’, highlighting the material’s potential use in protective coatings or even bullet-proof armour. This works because the graphene sheets are able to disperse the impact of the projectile by sending ripples quickly through their structure.
Of course, these new discoveries are very early studies which may never lead to any commercial applications, but they highlight new uses for this material which has captured everyone’s attention so greatly in the last decade. Who knows what new and interesting properties will be revealed in the near future.