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  • Advanced materials
  • How medical gloves will help launch satellites
  • Graphene rises to new heights
  • GRAPHENE IS strong, lightweight, flexible and an excellent conductor of electricity. In the 20 years since it was first isolated at the University of Manchester, however, it has also proved dispiritingly light in useful applications. That is slowly beginning to change, as its remarkable properties keep researchers well-stocked with inspiration. For Krzysztof Koziol at Cranfield University in Britain, for example, what began as a covid-era plan to use graphene to improve surgical gloves has now morphed into a project to use high-altitude balloons to launch satellites into space.

    Graphene, which consists of monolayers of carbon atoms bonded in a repeating hexagonal pattern, can be made in a number of ways, mostly by stripping flakes of carbon from mined graphite (sticky tape and pencil lead will do). Levidian Nanosystems, a Cambridge firm, uses a more sustainable process. It captures methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from various industrial sources, and then zaps it with microwaves inside a reaction chamber. This cracks the gas into its constituent parts, with hydrogen emerging at the top and graphene flakes at the bottom.

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