MANHATTAN, KAN. -- It's a cloak that surpasses all others: a microscopic carbon cloak made of graphene that could change the way bacteria and other cells are imaged.
Vikas Berry, assistant professor of chemical engineering at Kansas State University, and his research team are wrapping bacteria with graphene to address current challenges with imaging bacteria under electron microscopes. Berry's method creates a carbon cloak that protects the bacteria, allowing them to be imaged at their natural size and increasing the image's resolution.
Graphene is a form of carbon that is only one atom thick, giving it several important properties: it's impermeable, it's the strongest nanomaterial, it's optically transparent and it has high thermal conductance.
"Graphene is the next-generation material," Berry said. "Although only an atom thick, graphene does not allow even the smallest of molecules to pass through. Furthermore, it's strong and highly flexible so it can conform to any shape."
Berry's team has been researching graphene for three years, and Berry recently saw a connection between graphene and cell imaging research. Because graphene is impermeable, he decided to use the material to preserve the size of bacterial cells imaged under high-vacuum electron microscopes.
The research results appear in the paper "Impermeable Graphenic Encasement of Bacteria," which was published in a recent issue of Nano Letters, a monthly scientific journal published by the American Chemical Society. The team's preliminary research appeared in Nature News in 2010.
The current challenge with cell imaging occurs when scientists use electron microscopes to image bacterial cells. Because these microscopes require a high vacuum, they remove water from the cells. Biological cells contain 70 to 80 percent water, and the result is a severely shrunk cell. As a result, it is challenging to obtain an accurate image of the cells and their
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Kansas State University