11 January 2013, 16:25

New properties of graphene: Breakthrough in technology

New properties of graphene: Breakthrough in technology

Graphene purifies water from radioactive materials. Scientists at the Chemistry Faculty of Moscow State University and Rice University in the US discovered graphene’s new property.

They found out that the ultrastrong material from carbon with a thickness of one atom can draw in radioactive materials from solutions. This property can be used to clean radioactive places like the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

MAN: Microscopic particles of graphene oxide easily dissolve in water. They soak in radioactive materials and form a lump. The lumps can be removed from the liquid and destroyed, for example by burning. Scientists from Russia and the US who have been jointly conducting experiments for about two years discovered this property. Graphene was first discovered by scientists of Russian origin, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov.

In 2010, the Nobel Physics Prize was awarded to them for this discovery. However, the properties of graphene have not been studied yet. Graphene oxide particles are synthesized in the Rice University’s laboratory, while experiments are conducted at Lomonosov Moscow State University. Here is an opinion from Stepan Kalmykov, one of the experiment’s authors.

“The Russian team is conducting all experiments linked to the removal of radionuclides from aqueous media. Our American colleagues are engaged in producing graphene oxide and studying its properties. Rice University has no accommodations to conduct the experiment that we are carrying out. On the other hand, they are the leading specialists in chemical properties of such nano-carbon materials. We hope to expand the list of facilities that could be purified using this material apart from polluted underground water and various radioactive waste,” Stepan Kalmykov said.

This property of graphene can be used to develop a new technology of purifying liquids at nuclear power stations. Its basic advantage is its simplicity and effectiveness. The new technology has a promising future, says dean of the Chemistry Faculty of Moscow State University Valery Lunin.

“The utilization of radioactive waste is the major problem of the 21st century. It is a fundamental and most important task for the economy and science. What is proposed by our colleague as a possible approach can make a breakthrough. We specially conducted international courses on approaches towards the utilization of waste,” Valery Lunin said.

Graphene oxide can be used to upgrade technology producing rare-earth metals as well as shale and traditional hydrocarbons. At present, the task is to shift to the commercialization of the technology from laboratory studies. Russian scientists believe that its appearance will speed up if the Skolkovo innovative centre is involved in this. Oil producing companies might also show an interest in the new technology.

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