Material knowledge to keep you ahead of the curve - Issue #4  |  View in Browser

In the news:

Fake Graphene, What it Means to be Green, and Trends in Material Development




In this month's newsletter, we cover some recent updates including 'Fake' Graphene and the problems associated with the lack of stringent standards for graphene characterization and production, and what it means to be 'green'.


Fake Graphene: The problem is worrisome, widespread … and solvable

The numbers are alarming. In an analysis of samples from more than 60 graphene providers in the Americas, Asia and Europe, researchers at the National University of Singapore (NUS) found that the majority of samples contained less than 10 percent of what can be considered graphene; the bulk of the samples contained graphite powder that was not properly exfoliated. Just one of the samples contained more than 40 percent of high-quality graphene.

Professor Antonio Castro Neto, director of the NUS Center for Advanced 2D Materials, cites the likely cause of the problem to be a lack of stringent standards for graphene characterization and production rather than ill intent on the part of graphene providers. Nevertheless, the consequences are profound, impeding the progress of research that depends on the use of high-quality graphene and preventing reliable quantitative comparisons between data produced from different laboratories and users around the world.

Says Professor Castro Neto, “We hope that our results will speed up the process of standardization of graphene within ISO, as there is a huge market need for that. This will urge graphene producers worldwide to improve their methods to produce a better, properly characterized product that could help to develop real-world applications.”

For details of the analysis performed, read the full article in Advanced Materials.


What does “green” really mean?

Many things, as it turns out. Although the “green” concept overall relates to preserving the natural environment, there are several ways to look at it. Which of these examples are currently included in your work or life?

  • Green materials: generally derived from renewable resources.
  • Green production: seeks to minimize the impact of the manufacturing process on the environment at every stage.
  • Non-toxic materials: do not cause harm to the environment or to users and producers of the material.
  • Biodegradable materials: capable of being decomposed by bacteria or other living organisms.
  • Recycled materials: have moved from waste to reuse through reprocessing or re-purposing.
  • Reclaimed materials: can be reused in their existing form for new purposes.


It’s also important to assess the energy embedded in the life cycle of a material – specifically how much energy is required to obtain, process, transport, produce, use, and dispose of the material. That’s all part of being green, too!


For further reading, consider Green and Sustainable Manufacturing of Advanced Material, ISBN 978-0-12-411497-5.


Trends in Material Development

Can a cotton-based biofuel cell power medical implants?


Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Korea University have developed a glucose-powered biofuel cell that uses electrodes made from cotton fiber. 


The new fuel cell has twice the power of conventional biofuel cells and could be paired with batteries or supercapacitors to provide a hybrid power source for implanted medical devices such as pacemakers and sensors.


The cathodes have gold nanoparticles assembled on the cotton to create high-conductivity electrodes that improve the fuel cell’s efficiency. This also addresses the need to connect the enzyme used to oxidize glucose with an electrode.

To learn more about this novel technique, click here.


A metal as strong as Captain America’s shield


It may not be vibranium, the fictional super-material that makes up Captain America’s shield, but it’s not far off. Researchers have designed a nanocrystalline alloy of copper and tantalum that has a consistent level of mechanical strength and microstructure stability, even when subjected to extreme impact or temperature.


In fact, the alloy can withstand high rates of impact and temperatures in excess of 80% of its melting point with little change in its microstructure. Potential applications include ballistic protection and for use in future spacecraft for deep space exploration.

For more information, click here.


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