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Graphene Might Be Way Worse For the Environment Than We Thought

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Is there anything graphene can't do? The miracle material can save aging buildings, generate electricity, fight blood clots, and give you Predator-vision, among many other magical things. But a new study has revealed that graphene could have some negative environmental impacts as well.

A lab at University of California, Riverside's Bourns College of Engineering is one of the few in the country to study the environmental effects of graphene, a one-atom thick material with remarkable electrical and mechanical properties that's poised to change the way we make tech products. The researchers are currently studying the way that graphene oxide nanoparticles behave when released in water and how that behavior could affect living things.


Of particular concern for the study was examining the stability of graphene in groundwater compared to surface water. In groundwater, the graphene oxide nanoparticles became less stable and eventually settled out. In surface waters, the nanoparticles remained stable and were able to travel farther. This means that graphene becomes more mobile in waters like lakes or streams where the particles are more likely to cause negative environmental damage. That's not good.

The paper, which was published by Environmental Engineering Science, also points to other studies that say graphene could potentially be toxic to humans. Which means we might not want to be strapping it onto our body parts anytime soon. [UCR Today]


Jacob D. Lanphere, a Ph.D. student at UC Riverside, holds a sample of graphene oxide, photo via UCR