Scientists develop the world's thinnest balloon

August 11, 2008
Scientists have developed the world's thinnest balloon that is impermeable to even the smallest gas molecules. Above is a multi-layer graphene membrane that could be used in various applications, including filters and sensors. Image: Jonathan Alden

( -- Researchers in New York are reporting development of the world's thinnest balloon, made of a single layer of graphite just one atom thick. This so-called graphene sealed microchamber is impermeable to even the tiniest airborne molecules, including helium.

It has a range of applications in sensors, filters, and imaging of materials at the atomic level, they say in a study scheduled for the August 13 issue of ACS' Nano Letters.

Paul L. McEuen and colleagues note that membranes are fundamental components of a wide variety of physical, chemical and biological systems, found in everything from cellular compartments to mechanical pressure sensing.

Graphene, a single layer of graphite, is the upper limit: A chemically stable and electrically conducting membrane just one atom thick. The researchers wanted to answer whether such an atomic membrane would be impermeable to gas molecules and easily incorporated into other devices.

Their data showed that graphene membranes were impermeable to even the smallest gas molecules. These results show that single atomic sheets can be integrated with microfabricated structures to create a new class of atomic scale membrane-based devices. We envision many applications for these graphene sealed microchambers, says McEuen. These range from hyper-sensitive pressure, light and chemical sensors to filters able to produce ultrapure solutions.


Provided by American Chemical Society

Explore further: Black phosphorus surges ahead of graphene

Related Stories

Black phosphorus surges ahead of graphene

August 13, 2015

A Korean team of scientists tune black phosphorus' band gap to form a superior conductor, allowing for the application to be mass produced for electronic and optoelectronics devices.

Artificial muscles get graphene boost

May 22, 2015

Researchers in South Korea have developed an electrode consisting of a single-atom-thick layer of carbon to help make more durable artificial muscles.

Protons fuel graphene prospects

November 26, 2014

Graphene, impermeable to all gases and liquids, can easily allow protons to pass through it, University of Manchester researchers have found.

Fighting the global water scarcity issue

October 30, 2014

According to the World Water Management Institute, over one-third of the human population is affected by water scarcity. If nothing is done to prevent it, an estimated 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions ...

Recommended for you

Touchless displays superseding touchscreens?

October 2, 2015

While touchscreens are practical, touchless displays would be even more so. That's because, despite touchscreens having enabled the smartphone's advance into our lives and being essential for us to be able to use cash dispensers ...

Physicists map the strain in wonder material graphene

September 29, 2015

This week, an international group of scientists is reporting a breakthrough in the effort to characterize the properties of graphene noninvasively while acquiring information about its response to structural strain.


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (1) Aug 11, 2008
impermeable to even the smallest gas molecules??

Including Hydrogen?.. interesting...
5 / 5 (1) Aug 11, 2008
This so-called graphene sealed microchamber is impermeable to even the tiniest airborne molecules, including helium

Lol there is mention of helium but not of Hydrogen. I guess better balloons for helium is more important than any breakthrough in Hydrogen storage.
5 / 5 (1) Aug 11, 2008
impermeable to even the smallest gas molecules??

Including Hydrogen?.. interesting...
Hydrogen is not a gas molecule, it is an element. H2 is though and I suspect the statement in the article still hold true to that.
not rated yet Aug 11, 2008
I found a cool article about helium balloons at
4.5 / 5 (2) Aug 11, 2008
Would this material do well against tearing? Can the thickness be increased? Would this material harm the skin? It is obviously impermeable to sperm, HIV and other STDs. What I mean is, can it be used for condoms? Seriously.
4 / 5 (1) Aug 12, 2008
It should be as harmless to the skin as graphite. That is messy but harmless.
The picture looks more like a blister than a balloon.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.