A team of scientists has turned graphene oxide into kneadable and moldable play dough that can be used to create free-standing, three-dimensional structures.

Called GO dough, the product promises to address the challenges that come with manufacturing, storing, delivering, and using graphene. The researchers' goal is to turn graphene oxide into widely-accessible engineering material.

A paper discussing the GO dough was published in the journal Nature Communications.

How They Created GO Dough

The team lead by Jiaxing Huang of Northwestern University created GO dough by adding "an ultra-high concentration of graphene oxide to water." They explained that while they can use binders such as plastic to turn it into a dough state, they have to process the material again to remove the additives and turn the graphene oxide back to its pure form.

With water, they were able to make graphene oxide into a moldable dough. Adding more water will transform the dough into high-quality GO dispersion.

"Currently graphene oxide is stored as dry solids or powders, which are prone to combustion and explosion," said Huang. "Or they have to be turned into dilute dispersions, which multiply the material's mass by hundreds or thousands."

According to the researchers, after being turned into three-dimensional structures, the GO dough can be converted into dense solids that are "electrically conductive, chemically stable, and mechanically hard." The GO dough can also be processed into different forms of graphene materials with tunable microstructures.

Graphene Play Dough For Engineers

Huang and his team believe that the ease of use that the GO dough offers can make manufacturers realize its potential to become a super material. Graphene oxide is used to make graphene, the thinnest material known to man but is about 200 times stronger than steel. Graphene is an excellent conductor and has light absorption abilities, making it ideal for use in electronic products and for energy storage.

"My dream is to turn graphene-based sheets into a widely accessible, readily usable engineering material, just like plastic, glass and steel," stated Huang. "I hope GO dough can help inspire new uses of graphene-based materials, just like how play dough can inspire young children's imagination and creativity."

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