“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” wrote Benjamin Franklin in 1789. To that we might add: corrosion.
The inevitable march of destruction suffered by materials exposed to the environment has been vexing metallurgists and material scientists at least since ancient Rome, when Pliny the Elder wrote at length about "ferrum corrumpitur," spoiled iron. Corrosion comes in many guises; rust is the best known.
But now, scientists from the University of Manchester have found a way to employ graphene in a manner that stops corrosion in its tracks. The new form of graphene – graphene oxide – could be an unprecedented boon to chemical, pharmaceutical and electronic industries.
Graphene by itself was first suggested as a theoretical substance in 1947, it was eventually created in the lab in 2004. It is the world’s thinnest (and strongest) substance – made of carbon just one atom thick; transparent, but stronger than steel.
With the new research, published in Nature Communications, the University of Manchester team reveals that it is possible to make graphene films mechanically stronger as well as “completely impermeable to everything,” explains phys.org, "including gases, liquids or strong chemicals." Graphene oxide solutions can be employed to paint a wide array of surfaces; from glass to metals to even standard bricks. In the study, the researchers show that glassware or copper plates covered with this form of graphene paint can be used as containers for strongly corrosive acids.
"Graphene paint has a good chance to become a truly revolutionary product for industries that deal with any kind of protection either from air, weather elements or corrosive chemicals,” said Dr. Rahul Nair, who led the research team along and Nobel laureate Sir Andre Geim. “Those include, for example, medical, electronics and nuclear industry or even shipbuilding, to name but the few."
Dr. Yang Su, the study's first author, added, “Graphene paint can be applied to practically any material, independently of whether it's plastic, metal or even sand.”
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