Image by Itai Cohen Group/Mark Miskin/Cornell University

A team of scientists has created the world’s thinnest ever folds in a sheet of graphene, taking origami to the atomic scale.

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Folding a piece of paper is easy and, in theory, the same rules hold for a sheet of graphene. But putting a crisp fold into a one atom-thick sheet of graphene is troublesome, because of the delicate nature of the single layer: It’s all too easy for the fold to turn into a tear.

But, as New Scientist reports, scientists from Cornell University have achieved the feat—though admittedly by adding a half-nanometer thick layer of silicon dioxide glass to the graphene sheet first. That allows the sheet to respond more reliably to the forces required to create the fold. The work is being presented at the American Physical Society this week.

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The team reckons that the new techniques could allow others to create intricate printed circuits on graphene sheets which can later be folded up into 3D structures.

[New Scientist]