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
(PhysOrg.com) -- 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.

Article: dx.doi.org/10.1021/nl801457b

Provided by American Chemical Society

Explore further: Protons fuel graphene prospects

Related Stories

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.

Recommended for you

Solution for next generation nanochips comes out of thin air

November 19, 2018

Researchers at RMIT University have engineered a new type of transistor, the building block for all electronics. Instead of sending electrical currents through silicon, these transistors send electrons through narrow air ...

Scientists create atomic scale, 2-D electronic kagome lattice

November 19, 2018

Scientists from the University of Wollongong (UOW), working with colleagues at China's Beihang University, Nankai University, and Institute of Physics at Chinese Academy of Sciences, have successfully created an atomic scale, ...

Solving mazes with single-molecule DNA navigators

November 16, 2018

The field of intelligent nanorobotics is based on the great promise of molecular devices with information processing capabilities. In a new study that supports the trend of DNA-based information carriers, scientists have ...

A way to make batteries almost any shape desired

November 16, 2018

A team of researchers from Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Harvard University and Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology has developed a way to make batteries in almost any shape that can be imagined. ...

'Smart skin' simplifies spotting strain in structures

November 15, 2018

Thanks to one peculiar characteristic of carbon nanotubes, engineers will soon be able to measure the accumulated strain in an airplane, a bridge or a pipeline – or just about anything – over the entire surface or down ...

5 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

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

Including Hydrogen?.. interesting...
Egnite
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.
g86
not rated yet Aug 11, 2008
I found a cool article about helium balloons at http://graycarbon.com
bredmond
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.
Graeme
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.