Reseachers found a way to create 3D structures made from Graphene, a notoriously fickle material.
Graphene is the focus of research since over a decade because it has wonder qualities. Discovered in 2004, it is 1 million times thinner than a human hair, 300 times stronger than steel and it's the best known conductor of heat and electricity. These super qualities could, among other things, make computers faster, batteries more powerful and solar panels more efficient.
Don't Miss: iPhone 8: Everything You Need to Know
Graphene is a pain in the neck to manipulate beyond its two-dimensional form.
A research team - comprised of engineers from the University at Buffalo, Kansas State University and the Harbin Institute of Technology in China found a new way to shape graphene into 3D objects.
The team used a modified 3D printer and frozen water to create lattice-shaped cubes and a three-dimensional truss with overhangs using graphene oxide. The structures could be an important step toward making graphene commercially viable in electronics, medical diagnostic devices and other industries.
"Graphene is notoriously difficult to manipulate, but the structures we built show that it's possible to control its shape in three-dimensional forms," said Chi Zhou, assistant professor of industrial and systems engineering at UB's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and a corresponding author of the study.
Zhou is a member of the Sustainable Manufacturing and Advanced Robotic Technologies (SMART), a UB Community of Excellence launched in 2015; he also is a member of UB's New York State Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics.
In their experiments, the research team mixed the graphene oxide with water. They then printed the lattice framework on a surface of -25°C. The graphene is sandwiched between the layers of frozen ice, which act as a structural support.
After the process is completed, the lattice is dipped in liquid nitrogen, which helps form even stronger hydrogen bonds. The lattice is then placed in a freeze dryer, where the ice is changed into gas and removed. The end result is a complex, three-dimensional structure made of graphene aerogel that retains its shape at room temperature.
"By keeping the graphene in a cold environment, we were able to ensure that it retained the shape we designed. This is an important step toward making graphene a commercially viable material," said Dong Lin, assistant professor of industrial and manufacturing systems engineering at Kansas State University, and the study's other corresponding author.
Don't Miss: Nintendo Switch: Everything You Need To Know
The details of the research have been released in a study published in the journal Small.