Graphene continues to dazzle us with its strength and versatility – exciting new applications are being discovered all the time, and now scientists have found a way to manipulate the wonder material so that it Filter out impurities better.
Two-dimensional materials consisting of carbon atoms have previously been studied as a method of cleaning water, but the new method may present the most promising approach yet. This is down to the exploitation of what is known as the van der Waals interval: small spaces that appear between 2D nanometers when they are layered on top of each other.
These nanoparticles can be used in a variety of ways that scientists are now exploring, but the thinness of graphene causes a problem for filtration: in making the liquid travel along the horizontal plane rather than its long vertical plane Have to spend, which is very quick.
To solve this problem, the team behind the new study filtered the graphene layer into a microscopic series of peaks and valleys using an elastic substrate. This means that the liquid can track the edge of the steep peak horizontally, rather than horizontally in open fields (at all nanoscale).
“When you begin to wrinkle the graphene, you tilt the channel out of the sheets and the plane,” says Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) scientist Muchun Liou.
“If you wrinkle it too much, the channels align almost vertically.”
To eliminate the effect, the graphene and substrate are fixed in an epoxy material, before the peaks are trimmed from the top and bottom of the valleys. This gives the fluid a faster passage through graphene while still enabling filtration.
Liu and his colleagues have named the new materials VAGMEs (vertically aligned graphene membranes), and down the line they can be used beyond making water safe for drinking.
“What we end up with is a membrane with these small and very narrow channels, through which only very small molecules can pass,” says Robert Hurt, a chemical engineer at Brown University.
“So, for example, water can pass through, but organic contaminants or some metal ions will be too large to pass through. So you can filter those.”
The next step would be to put it into practice and create a workable filtering system, but the principle is sound. The material passed one of its first tests, allowing water vapor to flow through trapping large hexan molecules.
Eventually these VAGMEs can find use in industrial or domestic filtering systems, scientists say – one of many such promising methods to use in many different scientific fields.
According to experts, there is also great potential for nanoparticles that work between super-thin 2D materials such as graphene. The closer the scientists look at these nanometers, the more they know.
“Over the past decade, an entire field has grown up to study these spaces built between 2D nanomaterials,” says Hurt.
“You can grow things there, you can store things there, and this emerging field of nanofluidics is where you’re using those channels to filter certain molecules, while letting others pass. “
The research has been published in Nature communication.