Screwing up a nice flat sheet of paper is usually a sign of failure—but if the material’s graphene, it may be a good idea. Researchers have shown that crumpling the carbon-based material can actually provide it with some impressive new properties.
Researchers from Brown University have been putting wrinkles in smooth sheets of graphene. In fact, they’ve been doing it over and over again. They place the stuff on a heat-shrink polymer, apply heat, and wrinkle the graphene. Then they take that, place it on another sheet of heat-shrink polymer and wrinkle it again. And again.
After three rounds of crumpling, the researchers found they’d crumpled the sheet to one fortieth of its original length—and also imbued it with some impressive properties. The newly creased graphene was incredibly hydrophobic—water rolled right off it—and it also had a 400 per cent higher electrochemical current density than a flat sheet.
The team reckons that the electrical ability could be used to develop new kinds of batteries. But its crinkled nature also makes it high deformable, so it could find applications in stretchable electronics. Either way, it’s an extra feather in graphene’s cap.