The year was 2010, when graphene a term that was only known to the scientific community becomes a household name of science. Thanks to Nobel Laureates Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, the world has become aware of the extraordinary material. At its core, graphene is a sheet of carbon atoms organized in the form hexagonal lattice. It is the basic structural unit that makes up graphite, charcoal, carbon nanotubes and buckyballs (C60). Graphene has many unusual properties: it is hundred times stronger than steel, capable of self-repair when exposed to other carbon-based molecules, and an efficient conductor of heat and electricity.
In the early years, the production of graphene involved the use of the humble adhesive tape, which extracts a 2-dimensional layer out of graphite. Nowadays, scientists made graphene with a variety of advanced techniques like sonication dispersing, diamond wedge slicing and hydrothermal self-assembly. And the formation of graphene is no longer limited to the 2-dimensional sheet, structures like bilayer, superlattices, nanoribbons, nanofibers, nanotubes, and nanocoils are generated to amplify and tweak the properties of this unusual material.
Inspired by Thalia dealbata a water plant with sturdy and flexible stems, a team of Chinese researchers has come up with a novel design of graphene. What is so special about the plant is that its stem has massive fiber columns linked to each other with spring-like bridges. The researchers managed to replicate this porous structure on graphene. A delicately-controlled freezing method transformed a suspension of graphene oxide into parallel sheets connected by elastic bridges. Freeze-drying and warming of the sheets resulted in a cube-shaped graphene aerogel the final product. The material is not only highly flexible but also reasonably conductive considering its (low) density, a good fit for wearable sensors and electronics.
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