Tag Archives: Nature Communications

Graphene

Graphene innovation lowers cost of production

Graphene is a carbon material that is one atom thick.

Its thin composition and high conductivity means it is used in applications ranging from miniaturised electronics to biomedical devices.

These properties also enable thinner wire connections; providing extensive benefits for computers, solar panels, batteries, sensors and other devices.

Until now, the high cost of graphene production has been the major roadblock in its commercialisation.

Previously, graphene was grown in a highly-controlled environment with explosive compressed gases, requiring long hours of operation at high temperatures and extensive vacuum processing.

CSIRO scientists have developed a novel “GraphAir” technology which eliminates the need for such a highly-controlled environment.

The technology grows graphene film in ambient air with a natural precursor, making its production faster and simpler.

“This ambient-air process for graphene fabrication is fast, simple, safe, potentially scalable, and integration-friendly,” says CSIRO scientist Dr Zhao Jun Han, co-author of the paper published in Nature Communications.

“Our unique technology is expected to reduce the cost of graphene production and improve the uptake in new applications.”

GraphAir transforms soybean oil – a renewable, natural material – into graphene films in a single step.

“Our GraphAir technology results in good and transformable graphene properties, comparable to graphene made by conventional methods,” says CSIRO scientist and co-author of the study Dr Dong Han Seo.

With heat, soybean oil breaks down into a range of carbon building units that are essential for the synthesis of graphene.

The team also transformed other types of renewable and even waste oil, such as those leftover from barbecues or cooking, into graphene films.

“We can now recycle waste oils that would have otherwise been discarded and transform them into something useful,” Seo says.

The potential applications of graphene include water filtration and purification, renewable energy, sensors, personalised healthcare and medicine, to name a few.

Graphene has excellent electronic, mechanical, thermal and optical properties as well.

Its uses range from improving battery performance in energy devices, to cheaper solar panels.

CSIRO are looking to partner with industry to find new uses for graphene.

Researchers from The University of Sydney, University of Technology Sydney and The Queensland University of Technology also contributed to this work.

This article was first published by CSIRO on 31 Jan 2017. Read the original article here.

quantum MRI

Quantum MRI machine to enable drug discovery

Featured image above: Visualisation of a quantum MRI machine. Credit: University of Melbourne

Researchers at the University of Melbourne have developed a way to radically miniaturise a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine using atomic-scale quantum computer technology.

Capable of imaging the structure of a single bio-molecule, the new system would overcome significant technological challenges and provide an important new tool for biotechnology and drug discovery.

The work was published in Nature Communications, and was led by Professor Lloyd Hollenberg at the University of Melbourne, working closely with researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology (CQC2T) to design the quantum molecular microscope.

The team propose the use of atomic-sized quantum bits (qubits) normally associated with the development of quantum computers, but here would be employed as highly sensitive quantum sensors to image the individual atoms in a bio-molecule.

“Determining the structure of bio-molecules such as proteins can often be a barrier to the development of novel drugs,” says Hollenberg, Thomas Baker Chair in Physical Biosciences at the University of Melbourne.

“By using quantum sensing to image individual atoms in a bio-molecule, we hope to overcome several issues in conventional biomolecule imaging, ” Hollenberg says.

State-of-the-art techniques create a crystal of the molecule to be studied and use X-ray diffraction to determine the molecules’ average structure. However, the crystallisation and averaging processes may lead to important information being lost. Also, not all bio-molecules can be crystallised – particularly proteins associated with cell membranes, which are critical in the development of new drugs.

“Our system is specifically designed to use a quantum bit as a nano-MRI machine to image the structure of a single protein molecule in their native hydrated environments,” says Hollenberg.

“As part of our research in quantum computing we have also been working on the nearer-term applications of atomic-based quantum technology investigating the use of a single quantum bit as a highly sensitive magnetic field sensor.”

Atomic qubits can be made to exist in two states at the same time, a disturbingly strange property that not only underpins the power of a quantum computer, but also the sensitivity of qubits as nano-sensors.

“In a conventional MRI machine large magnets set up a field gradient in all three directions to create 3D images; in our system we use the natural magnetic properties of a single atomic qubit,” says University of Melbourne PhD researcher Mr. Viktor Perunicic, who was the lead author on the paper.

“The system would be fabricated on-chip, and by carefully controlling the quantum state of the qubit probe as it interacts with the atoms in the target molecule, we can extract information about the positions of atoms by periodically measuring the qubit probe and thus create an image of the molecule’s structure.” says Peruncic.

“The system could be constructed and tested relatively quickly using diamond-based qubits. However, to capture really high resolution molecular images in the longer term, CQC2T’s silicon-based qubits might have the advantage because they have very long quantum coherence,” says Hollenberg.

“The construction of such a quantum MRI machine for single molecule microscopy could revolutionise how we view biological processes at the molecular level, and could lead to the development of new biotechnology and a range of clinical applications.”

This article on the design of a quantum MRI machine was first published by The Melbourne Newsroom on 12 October 2016. Read the original article here.