Academic journal article Science Scope

Tiny, Yet Tough, Balloons

Academic journal article Science Scope

Tiny, Yet Tough, Balloons

Article excerpt

Using a lump of graphite, a piece of Scotch tape, and a silicon wafer, Cornell researchers have created a balloonlike membrane that is just one atom thick, but strong enough to contain gases under several atmospheres of pressure without popping. And unlike your average party balloon--or even a thick, sturdy glass container--the membrane is ultrastrong, leakproof and impermeable to even nimble helium atoms.

The research could lead to a variety of new technologies--from novel ways to image biological materials in solution to techniques for studying the movement of atoms or ions through microscopic holes. The work was conducted at the National Science Foundation-supported Cornell Center for Materials Research by former Cornell graduate student Scott Bunch (now an assistant professor at the University of Colorado), Cornell professor of physics Paul McEuen, and Cornell colleagues.

Graphene, a form of carbon atoms in a plane one atom thick, is the strongest material in the world, with tight covalent bonds in two dimensions that hold it together even as the thinnest possible membrane. It is also a semimetal, meaning it conducts electricity but changes conductivity with changes in its electrostatic environment. …

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