It’s like origami. With a little imagination, the possibilities are endless.
With just one look at this video from scientists at Donghua University in China, you will be in awe of the amazing, self-folding properties of graphene. It’s eerie, life-like behaviors — such as walking and grasping – lead researchers from all over the world to think that this could be a breakthrough for future technology.
Graphene is a thin layer of pure carbon – the thinnest known to man at just one atom thick – but it’s incredibly strong and stretchy. It moves by treating sections of graphene paper so it naturally absorbs water vapor from the atmosphere. When the paper is heated, water vapor is released and the paper moves. Even poking it with a diamond tool prompts tiny ribbons of the material to peel away.
According to Jiuke Mu, a doctoral student at Donghua University, he and his team “believe that this self-folding material holds potential for a wide range of applications such as robotics and artificial muscles.” The video shows graphene in the shape of a hand that grasped and lifted another material, similar to a muscle.
Not only that, but walking devices, self-assembling boxes and smart clothing are also possibilities as well. The material could change shape and style in response to body temperature or environmental changes.
Another team of researchers at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland came across the graphene discovery as well. Graham Cross says the sheets could be folded to make sensors and transistors. Such devices could allow for nanoscale electronics and faster computers. This could also help the food industry, as graphene-based sensor on packaging could break if an item’s temperature rose above a certain level.
Unfortunately, it could be awhile until any practical applications can be made with this material. Mu believes there is still room for improvement to be more energy efficient. Additionally, Cross says they need to explore the properties of nanoscale graphene, as they believe the properties change when the graphene is smaller in size.
We’ll just have to wait to see what’s to come. Considering the amazing things that can be done with actual origami, graphene’s folding properties could reach miraculous new depths, out of the art world and into science.