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Friday, 12 September 2008 19:19

Nano-balloon created by scientists: thinnest ever made

American scientists and engineers from Cornell University have created a graphite balloon that is the thinnest balloon ever made. It is only one atom in thickness so probably won’t be used at birthday parties and New Year’s celebrations.

Researchers from Cornell University have created the world’s thinnest balloon out of a single layer of graphite that is only one atom thick.

In the August 2008 paper “Impermeable Atomic Membranes from Graphene Sheet,” within the journal Nano Letters, the authors describe how the thinnest balloon--only one atom thick--was created.

The authors are J. Scott Bunch, Scott S. Verbridge, Jonathan S. Alden, Arend M. van der Zande, Jeevak M. Parpia, Harold G. Craighead, and Paul L. McEuen, all from the Cornell Center for Materials Research, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, U.S.A.

Any airborne materials, no matter how small they may be in size, cannot penetrate the membrane of the balloon. The membrane, as stated by the authors in the paper’s abstract, is “a unique separation barrier between 2 distinct regions that is only one atom thick.”

The authors call these balloons “graphene-sealed microchambers.”

Graphene is a word derived from the word “graphite” and the suffix “-ene” (used to describe organic compounds involving the “-C=C-“ group). It is a one-atom-thick planar sheet of bonded carbon atoms that have been packed together in a very dense honeycomb crystal lattice structure.

What will these really thin balloons be used for, now that they have been invented? Please read page two.

The researchers, led by mechanical engineer J. Scott Bunch, state that the thinnest balloon will probably be used to assist in imaging techniques such as with scanning tunneling micrscope (STM) devices.

They should also help as part of sensing devices, such as when they measure pressures inside very small volumes and identify pressure changes that occur with chemical reactions.

The balloons are also likely to be a part of filtering devices, acting as barriers for “ultrafiltration.”

A representation of the balloon is found on the ACS Publication's website.


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