Graphene production using bacteria: the future of nanotechnology?

graphene production
© iStock/Andrey Prokhorov

A new paper details researchers’ success in producing the coveted ‘supermaterial’ graphene by mixing oxidised graphite with bacteria.

The study, conducted at Delft University in the Netherlands and published in the ChemOpen journal, found that using the bacteria to deoxidise exfoliated graphite material resulted in the production of graphene in a substantially more cost-effective, time-efficient and sustainable process than previous graphene production endeavours. The bacterially produced material retained the conductivity of chemically produced graphene, but was thinner and less volatile.

Graphene, the thinnest known two-dimensional material at only an atom thick, has been in high demand since its discovery due to its strength, flexibility and conductivity; however, the process of graphene production is typically costly and unable to yield the amounts needed for large scale projects.

Anne S Meyer PhD, Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Rochester in New York and co-author of the study, said: “For real applications [of graphene] you need large amounts. Producing these bulk amounts is challenging and typically results in graphene that is thicker and less pure. This is where our work came in. Graphene oxide is easy to produce, but it is not very conductive due to all of the oxygen groups in it. The bacteria remove most of the oxygen groups, which turns it into a conductive material. When biological molecules bind to the device, they change the conductance of the surface, sending a signal that the molecule is present. To make a good FET biosensor you want a material that is highly conductive but can also be modified to bind to specific molecules.”

Dr Meyer added: “Our bacterially produced graphene material will lead to far better suitability for product development – we were even able to develop a technique of ‘bacterial lithography’ to create graphene materials that were only conductive on one side, which can lead to the development of new, advanced nanocomposite materials.”

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