This is crumpled graphene. Credit: Xuanhe Zhao

Controlled crumpling of graphene forms artificial muscle

January 23, 2013

Duke University engineers are layering atom-thick lattices of carbon with polymers to create unique materials with a broad range of applications, including artificial muscles.

The lattice, known as graphene, is made of pure carbon and appears under magnification like chicken wire. Because of its unique optical, electrical and mechanical properties, graphene is used in electronics, energy storage, composite materials and biomedicine.

However, graphene is extremely difficult to handle in that it easily “crumples.” Unfortunately, scientists have been unable to control the crumpling and unfolding of large-area graphene to take advantage of its properties.

Duke engineer Xuanhe Zhao, assistant professor in Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, likens the challenge of controlling graphene to the difference between unfolding paper and wet tissue.

“If you crumpled up normal paper, you can pretty easily flatten it out,” Zhao said. “However, graphene is more like wet tissue paper. It is extremely thin and sticky and difficult to unfold once crumpled. We have developed a method to solve this problem and control the crumpling and unfolding of large-area graphene films.”

Read more: Controlled crumpling of graphene forms artificial muscle — phys.org.

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