The single layer material Graphene was the subject of a Nobel prize this year but research led by a team of researchers at the University of Warwick has found molecular hooks on the surface of its close chemical cousin, Graphene Oxide, that will potentially provide massive benefits to researchers using transmission electron microscopes. They could even be used in building molecular scale mechanisms.
The research team, which includes Drs. Jeremy Sloan, Neil Wilson and PhD student Priyanka Pandey from the Department of Physics and Dr. Jon Rourke from the Department of Chemistry together with the groups of Drs. Kazu Suenaga and Zheng Liu from AIST in Japan and Drs. Ian Shannon and Laura Perkins in Birmingham were looking at the possibility of using Graphene as a base to mount single molecules for imaging by transmission electron microscopy. As Graphene forms an electron transparent sheet just one atom thick it would enable high precision, high contrast imaging of the molecules being studied as well as the study of any interactions they have with the supporting graphene.
While this idea is great in theory, Graphene is actually very difficult to create and manipulate in practice. The researchers therefore turned to Graphene's easier to handle cousin, Graphene Oxide. This choice turned out to be a spectacularly better material as they found extremely useful properties, in the form of ready-made molecular hooks that could make Graphene Oxide the support material of choice for future transmission electron microscopy of any molecule with oxygen on its surface.
Graphene Oxide's name obscures the fact that it is actually a combination of carbon, oxygen and hydrogen. For the most part it still resembles the one atom thin sheet of pure Graphene, but it also has "functional groups" consisting of hydrogen paired with oxygen. These functional groups can bind strongly to molecules with external oxygens making them ideal tethers for researchers wishing to
|Contact: Dr. Jeremy Sloan|
University of Warwick