Graphene is one of the forms of carbon. Like diamonds and graphite, the forms (or 'allotropes') of carbon have different crystal structures, and this gives them different properties. Graphene is the basic 2D (two dimensional) form of a number of 3D allotropes, such as graphite, charcoal, fullerene and carbon nanotubes.
The term graphene was coined as a combination of graphite and the suffix '-ene' by Hanns-Peter Boehm, who described single-layer carbon foils in 1962. Graphene is like a honeycomb or 'chicken wire' structure, made of carbon atoms and their bonds. Graphite is many graphene sheets stacked together.
Graphene supercapacitors are among the possible applications.
An international team from the University of Manchester made a membrane of graphene oxide. They showed it blocked many gases and liquids but let water through. Sir Andre Geim said: "Helium gas is hard to stop. It slowly leaks even through a millimetre-thick window glass but our ultra-thin films completely block it. At the same time, water evaporates through them unimpeded. Materials cannot behave any stranger".
Membranes of graphene will make pretty good bullet-stoppers. Research shows that an atom-thick layer absorbs a hit better than steel. The research team suggests that combining graphene with one or more additional materials to form a composite might be the way forward.
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