Although graphene in itself has been dubbed the 'magic' material, if it is to be used for practical applications it has to integrated with the other components of possible devices. For instance, to exploit its amazing electron conduction properties, you still need to connect it to the rest of the circuit with contacts, which are typically made out of metal. Understanding how metals interact - chemically and structurally - with graphene is therefore quite important and researchers have published a number of studies on the subject. In a quite unexpected discovery resulting from these observations, researchers have now found that graphene undergoes a self-repairing process to close holes that are caused by metal atoms. They were able to show that nanoscale holes (perhaps a 100 atoms missing or so), etched under an electron beam at room temperature in single-layer graphene sheets as a result of their interaction with metal impurities, heal spontaneously by filling up with either nonhexagon, graphene-like, or perfect hexagon 2D structures.
Graphene is undoubtedly emerging as the most promising nanomaterial because of its unique combination of superb properties, which opens a way for its exploitation in a wide spectrum of applications. However, it has to overcome a number of obstacles before we can realize its full potential for practical applications. One of the greatest challenges being faced today in commercializing graphene is how to produce high quality material, on a large scale at low cost, and in a reproducible manner. The major hurdle in manufacturing graphene on an industrial scale is the process complexity and the associated high cost of its production, which results in expensive product. In the present article, an attempt has been made to carry out an extensive survey and analysis of global patents pertaining to the various processes of graphene synthesis.
One type of biomolecules, enzymes, regulate almost all chemical reactions involved in numerous biological processes in living organisms and are also widely used in research and industry. Regulation of enzyme activity and stability is very important and has always attracted great attention. Various enzyme regulators, ranging from proteins, peptides, and synthetic organic molecules, have been discovered. Recently, nanomaterials evolve as promising alternatives for enzyme modulation. Nanomaterials provide large surface areas for biomolecule adsorption and can be engineered to present multiple surface functional groups for interacting with biomolecules, such as enzymes and/or their substrates. In a recent study, scientists started to explore the interactions between functionalized graphene oxide and serine proteases, a large family of enzymes with important biomedical and industrial applications.
There is currently a very strong interest in using graphene for applications in optoelectronics. Graphene-based photodetectors have been realized before. By using graphene, researchers make use of the internal electric field that exists at the interface of graphene and metal. However, the low optical absorption of graphene - only 2.3 % due to its monoatomic thickness - leads to a low responsivity of these devices. Several groups worldwide are therefore currently pursuing different approaches to increase the interaction length of light with graphene and enhance the optical absorption. One novel approach is based on the integration of graphene into an optical microcavity. The increased electric field amplitude inside the cavity causes more energy to be absorbed, leading to a significant increase of the photoresponse.
Gallium Nitride (GaN) is a semiconductor material commonly used in bright light-emitting diodes since the 1990s, which are now found in traffic lights and solid-state lighting. Thanks to its wide band gap, this very hard semiconductor material also finds applications in optoelectronic, high-power and high-frequency devices. However, a severe problem that afflicts high-power GaN electronic and optoelectronic devices is self-heating and the difficulties of heat removal. Researchers have now found an unusual solution for the thermal management problem of gallium-nitride technology: They demonstrated that thermal management of GaN transistors can be substantially improved via introduction of alternative heat-escaping channels implemented with graphene multilayers.
It has been known for some time that graphene can be used for detection of individual gas molecules adsorbed on its surface - a graphene sensor can detect just a single molecule of a toxic gas. However, the extremely high sensitivity of graphene does not necessarily translate into its selectivity to various molecules. In other words, it can be detected that some molecules attached to the graphene surface change the resistivity of a graphene field-effect transistor but one cannot say what kind of a molecules have attached. Scientists have therefore thought that truly selective gas sensing with graphene devices requires the functionalization of graphene surface with some agents specific for different gas molecules. In new research, though, scientists have now found that chemical vapors change the noise spectra of graphene transistors. The noise signal for each gas is reproducible, opening the way for practical reliable and simple gas sensors made from graphene.
Graphene with its distinctive band structure and unique physiochemical properties - such as exceptionally low intrinsic electrical resistivity, high surface area, rapid electrode kinetics and good mechanical properties - is considered an attractive material for analytical electrochemistry. However, one of the key technical challenges for the use of graphene as functional material in device applications is the integration of nanoscale graphene onto micro- or millimeter sized sensing platforms. With a new methodology, a team from Florida International University was able to integrate graphene onto three-dimensional (3D) carbon microstructure arrays with good uniformity and controllable morphology.
Graphene-based materials are emerging as highly attractive materials for real applications, especially in the area of energy conversion and storage. There are four major energy-related areas where graphene will have an impact: solar cells, supercapacitors, lithium-ion batteries, and catalysis for fuel cells. A recent review gives a brief overview of the recent research concerning chemical and thermal approaches toward the production of well-defined graphene-based nanomaterials and their applications in energy-related areas. But before graphene-based nanomaterials and devices find widespread commercial use, two important problems have to be solved: one is the preparation of graphene-based nanomaterials with well-defined structures, and the other is the controllable fabrication of these materials into functional devices.