There seems to be little that graphene can't do. While previous studies have shown that it can repair itself, with a little assistance from heat or pressure, new research suggests that it can actually fix holes in its structure entirely unaided.
The research, carried out at the University of Manchester, shows that graphene manages to absorb loose carbon atoms in its vicinity to repair holes in its structure. Amazingly, they just appear to snap into place, as if by magic.
In fact, the researchers noticed the effect by accident. They were trying to understand how and why holes formed in the sheets of graphene when they added metal contacts to the material. To their surprise, they noticed that when stray carbon atoms were near the holes, they quickly filled the gaps, in turn repairing the sheet.
The finding, published in Nano Letters, is both amazing and incredibly useful. Because graphene is so thin—just a single layer of carbon atoms—it is incredibly easily damaged. This research suggests that it should be possible to heal repairs in a fairly controlled fashion. [Nano Letters via BBC]
Image by CORE-materials under Creative Commons license