Researchers have discovered that a bacterium can be used to produce graphene

The study of the exposure of graphite to a species of bacteria has shown that the latter is capable of converting this material into graphene. The industrial application of this discovery could provide substantial savings in the production of this material.

Produced and extracted for the first time only 15 years ago, graphene is a material consisting of a single layer of carbon, which is in nature the main component of graphite. It is particularly used for its very light weight and strength, as well as for its conductive properties in electronics. But it could have been used in more areas if its cost of production had not been a major drag (about 100 euros per gram).

Since 2004, scientists have been trying to develop new methods to make their production cheaper. The first method used was very rudimentary because it was sticking tape to the surface of the graphite to extract it. Chemical methods have then emerged, but the latest, explained in a paper published this month, uses biological processes and could significantly lower the cost of production.

Researchers from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and Rochester, New York, have shown that Shewanella oneidensis is capable of producing graphene when mixed with graphite oxide. and thanks to a reaction called in chemistry "reduction", where oxygen molecules are removed from the latter, leaving only conductive graphene. This natural method has the advantage of avoiding the use of chemicals currently used by industries, and is less expensive. Its development on a larger scale (than the laboratory) could allow its application in more computing or medical devices.

The production of a large quantity is difficult and usually gives thicker and less pure graphene. That's where our work comes in, "says Anne Meyer, a biologist at the University of Rochester.

Indeed, not only have the researchers discovered a new way to obtain the material, but the final product is also thinner, more stable, and has a better longevity than graphene chemically produced.

 The production of graphene by the bacterium also has the advantage of not removing all oxygen groups, which could be exploited for their properties to attach to certain molecules. This opens new paths in the design of biomedical devices such as field-effect transistor biosensors, which are devices that detect specific biological molecules, one of the best known being the glucose meter (measuring glucose levels in diabetics).

Many analyzes have yet to be done before considering the wider use of this technique, which could significantly reduce the price of many electronic devices. But given the quality of the graphene obtained and the absence of chemical compounds, the production of this material promises to increase in the future.

" Our graphene produced by bacteria will significantly improve the overall development of this product, " says Meyer.


Creation of Conductive Graphene Materials by Bacterial Reduction Using Shewanella Oneidensis
Benjamin A. E. Lehner Vera A. E. C. Janssen Dr. Ewa M. Spiesz Dominik Benz Dr. Stan J. J. Brouns Dr. Anne S. Meyer Prof. Dr. Herre S. J. van der Zant

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