Graphene has been heralded as the new supermaterial of our time. It possesses incredible strength and elasticity, while its exceptionally high conductivity and use in flexible semiconductors could soup up computing.
If all that weren't enough, there's another way that the atom-thick layers of carbon might improve your life: stopping your shoes from smelling.
Sheets of graphene oxide are highly effective at killing bacteria, say Chunhai Fan, Qing Huang and colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai. The team sprayed sheets of the material with an aerosol rich in Escherichia coli, and then placed the sheets in an incubator and examined them under a microscope. "We observed that E.coli cells were destroyed when they interacted with the graphene oxide," says Fan, providing the first evidence that graphene oxide kills bacteria.
The mechanism is not fully understood, he says. Nevertheless, if the material's bactericidal properties extend beyond E. coli, it could find its way into a host of new applications, from warding off shoe odour to packaging that will help keep food fresh for longer (ACS Nano, DOI: 10.1021/nn101097v).