Descubren que el grafeno es capaz de autorepararse

Descubren que el grafeno es capaz de autorepararse

Investigadores de la Universidad de Manchester han podido comprobar que cuando una lámina de grafeno recibe algún daño que quiebra su estructura produciendo un agujero consigue atraer átomos de carbono situados en las proximidades para así reparar los huecos. Casi como si se tratase de magia, dichos átomos capturados van situándose en los huecos donde son requeridos.

Los investigadores han realizado este descubrimiento por accidente, como muchas otras veces ha sucedido en la Historia de la Ciencia. Estaban investigando cómo se forman los agujeros en las láminas de grafeno cuando añadieron metal en contacto con el material de marras y cuál no sería su sorpresa al constatar que átomos sueltos de carbono que quedaban cerca de los agujeros en la superficie del grafeno rápidamente pasaban a cubrir los agujeros, reparando así la integridad de la lámina.

Recordemos que el grafeno se presenta en láminas del grosor de un átomo, de ahí su fragilidad y la facilidad con que puede dañarse, pero al mismo tiempo parece ser que de ahí procede la facilidad que tiene para repararse a base de “capturar” átomos sueltos de carbono que ocupen el lugar del agujero causado. ¿Para cuando un parachoques de grafeno? ─[Nano Letters / BBC / Imagen: CORE-materials bajo licencia Creative Commons]

Por accidente

El estudio lo llevó a cabo un grupo de investigadores de la Universidad de Manchester, Reino Unido, –incluyendo a Konstantin Novoselov, quien compartió un premio Nobel por ser uno de los descubridores del grafeno– y del Laboratorio SuperSTEM de Ingeniería y Ciencias Físicas del Consejo de Investigación en Daresbury, Reino Unido.

El equipo estaba inicialmente interesado en los efectos de agregar contactos de metal a tiras de grafeno, que es la única manera de explotar sus fenomenales propiedades electrónicas.

Ese proceso crea de manera rutinaria agujeros en las tiras, que son del grosor de un átomo. Por eso, los investigadores trataron de entender cómo se forman esos agujeros, por lo cual dispararon corrientes de electrones en las hojas de grafeno. Después estudiaron los resultados con un microscopio electrónico.

Para su sorpresa, encontraron que, cuando átomos de carbono pasan cerca de las hojas de grafeno, los átomos encajan en ese lugar, logrando la reparación de la hoja de dos dimensiones.

“Simplemente ocurrió sin que nos diéramos cuenta,” dijo el coautor del estudio Quentin Ramasse del laboratorio SuperSTEM. “Lo hemos repetido unas cuantas veces y luego tratamos de comprender cómo ocurrió”, dijo a la BBC.

Dos dimensiones

Las formas irregulares en las hojas de grafeno se generan por unas moléculas llamadas hidrocarburos, que son producto del carbono que se puede presentar a su alrededor. Algo parecido ocurre cuando los átomos de metal pasan cerca, creando agujeros en los bordes.
Sin embargo, los átomos de carbono puro chocan con los átomos de metal fuera del camino, reparando a la perfección los agujeros y formando un enrejado fresco e ininterrumpido de hexágonos.

“Si usted puede controlar el reservorio de carbón de un agujero, reduciéndolo a pequeñas cantidades, se podrían arreglar los bordes del grafeno o reparar los agujeros “, dijo Ramasse.

“Sabemos cómo conectar pequeñas tiras de grafeno, perforarlo, adaptarlo, esculpirlo; y ahora parece que podríamos ser capaces de hacer volver a crecer de una manera razonablemente controlada”.

Via: http://www.gizmodo.es/2012/07/11/el-penultimo-milagro-del-grafeno-es-capaz-de-autorepararse-atrayendo-atomos-de-carbono.html

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