Graphene is harder than a diamond, lighter than aluminum, tougher than steel, and more elastic than rubber. These are just a few properties of this wonder material that serves as an excellent electrical and heat conductor.
Owing to its unique features, graphene is known to have an important role to play in forthcoming technological developments in the domains of electronics, research, medicine, and information technology.
Now, at the University of Cordoba (UCO), the FQM-346 Organic Chemistry research group has discovered how graphene behaves in a luminescent manner, a novel trait that was not exhibited by this material before and that currently ushers in a host of innovative applications.
According to Professor Francisco José Romero Salguero, one of the study authors, certain substances have a luminescence property, which enables them to produce light at a varied wavelength than the one they were able to absorb it at. To put this in simpler terms, luminescent materials are capable of emitting visible light from energy, a characteristic that makes them useful as fluorescent tags and photocatalysts that can be shown in biological materials and macromolecules. Now, the latest study performed by the UCO team adds luminescence to the extended list of services that can be provided by graphene.
The study has been reported in Chemistry—A European Journal, sponsored by Europe’s main chemical societies, and also involved the work of UCO scientists Juan Amaro Gahete, Dolores Esquivel, and César Jiménez-Sanchidrián, together with another Belgian research team. Due to its degree of significance, this prominent journal elucidated the article as a hot paper.
Although attempts have been made in the past to bestow this wonder material with the properties of light, all those proved to be ineffective. One aspect that truly makes graphene unique is its hexagonal structure predicated on extremely cohesive carbon atoms through a type of electronic cloud resembling a sandwich. If interruptions are made to the connection between the atoms in this cloud, then part of the properties will be lost, researcher Francisco Romero explained.
In particular, overcoming this barrier is key to this study. The researchers, at their end, were able to integrate luminescence into this material without impacting its other qualities, thereby protecting the functionality of its intricate structure. To accomplish this, europium was incorporated within graphene. Europium is a kind of metal that seamlessly coordinates with the altered molecules of graphene and is the one that provides luminous properties to this wonder material.
The outcomes provide rapid applications, as this luminescent graphene can possibly be employed in biological material and can even be used for examining tissue cells. Nevertheless, the study goes one step further. The application of europium “is just a concept test,” explained Professor César Jiménez-Sanchidrián from the University of Cordoba.
From now on, this research paves the way to the use of a wide range of chemical elements that could be integrated with graphene to impart novel properties to it. For example, if specific kinds of metals are incorporated, it is possible to create a magnetic graphene. Eventually, this line of study will be continued by the team, which is part of the University Institute of Nanochemistry (shortened to IUNAN in Spanish) and the College of Science. The aim of the researchers is to add novel traits to the long list of the qualities of graphene. Doing so will boost the versatility of this material that holds extremely promising properties and these traits have already earned it the right to be called a futuristic material.