Graphene paint may mean the end of rust forever on any surfaces treated with the material. Graphene consists of a sheet of carbon atoms, just one atom thick. The material has remarkable electronic and physical characteristics that could revolutionize a wide range of industries.
Oxygen can be easily bonded with graphene, forming graphene oxide. This substance has properties that could make it useful in developing new pharmaceuticals and chemicals.
Graphene oxide can also be applied to many surfaces, including metal, glass and brick, protecting the object from corrosion. Once the coating has set, the layer possesses the thermal and chemical stability of graphite, but is as tough as the strongest substance known to mankind - graphene. This new development could provide significant advances in a wide range of industries.
"For example, plastic films coated with graphene could be of interest for medical packaging to improve shelf life because they are less permeable to air and water vapour than conventional coatings. In addition, thin layers of graphene paint are optically transparent," Yang Su, researcher on the study, said.
Because the only ingredient of graphene is carbon, the substance could be produced cheaply, if an inexpensive method is found to produce it on an industrial scale. So far, that has been the biggest challenge to the budding graphene industry.
Graphene paint can even be applied to sand, creating a tough, transparent coating, holding grains together in any desired shape. Strong acids can also be coated with graphene paint, which could provide a way of quickly encasing industrial spills of the potentially-dangerous chemicals. Ordinary glass and copper can be used to store even the strongest acids following a coating of graphene paint. This material is even resistant to highly-corrosive hydrofluoric acid.
Rahul Nair and Sir Andre Geim previously demonstrated that layers of graphene oxide could be used as a new form of water filter. The material forms in shapes similar to snowflakes, creating tiny channels between them, through which water can travel. This liquid can carry atoms and molecules in their travel through the filter.
"Graphene paint has a good chance to become a truly revolutionary product for industries that deal with any kind of protection either from air, weather elements or corrosive chemicals. Those include, for example, medical, electronics and nuclear industry or even shipbuilding, to name but the few," Nair told the press.
Development of graphene paint and investigation of the properties of graphene paint and filters was detailed in the journal Nature Communications.