A new British study has revealed the way in which graphene helps to improve the performance of rubber, a breakthrough which may lead to significant changes in a diverse variety of products.
Around the world, graphene is hailed as one of the most versatile materials discovered so far. Not only is graphene finer than a single human hair, but it is 200 times stronger than steel. In previous studies, results have illustrated the myriad uses for graphene, including: touchscreens on mobile devices; improving water-filtration systems; and alternative sources of power to batteries. Graphene is also used in bionic components.
At the UK’s University of Manchester, a team of scientists discovered that graphene has the power to boost rubber’s strength and elasticity. The study was undertaken to learn the ways in which graphene could transform rubber’s behaviour. During their experiments, Dr. Maria Ility and Dr. Aravind Vijayaraghavan used a range of graphene, in different types and portions, alongside an organic and a synthetic kind of rubber.
In the majority of cases during the study, the material created had the ability to stretch further than standard rubber. The doctors found that the rubber could be made 50 percent tougher and stretchier by simply adding a tiny portion of graphene.
The Exciting Potential of this New Discovery
The composite material blends the two ingredients’ lightness and strength, which creates a strong new innovation with a variety of potential applications. During the experiment, the type of graphene used was graphene oxide. When placed into water, graphene oxide becomes more stable, as do the types of rubber used during the process. Using these materials helped the team to blend both by employing dip moulding (in which a mould is placed into plastisol / liquid vinyl).
The new composite material, blending rubber and graphene, can be used for various products, including medical devices, condoms, and sports clothing. This would lead to greater comfort and freedom of movement, and has the potential to prove incredibly popular with consumers.
According to Vijayaraghavan: “our thinking was that if we could make the rubber used in condoms stronger and stretchier, then you could use that to make even thinner condoms which would feel better without breaking.”
Recently, a Chinese team built the first example of graphene electronic paper. This was developed with an aim to revolutionize screens on modern gadgets, such as e-readers, phones, and wearable tech. This is also believed to be the toughest yet strongest material in existence.
The material was created by Guangzhou OED Technologies, alongside another Chongquing Province, and measures only 0.335 nanometers thick. Like the composite created at Manchester University, the graphene electronic paper is another notable development to make the news since graphene was first discovered.
The University of Manchester was actually the site at which graphene was found by Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov. They took crystallites, each only one atom thick, from a bulk portion of graphite. Since then, many teams have explored graphene’s potential, and there are sure to be many more in years to come.