It is believed that graphene will be the material of the future; its properties make it suitable for any kind of use, from applications on electronic devices to anti-bacterial products. But last findings reveal a quite unexpected utility: distilling booze. Is there anything this so-called “miracle material” can’t do?
The experiment with vodka started “just for a laugh”, says lead researcher Dr. Rahul Nair, from the University of Manchester. The research behind it, however, is a much more serious issue. It involves the creation of membranes made from graphene that allows the water to pass through but blocks any other liquids, vapours and gases. And this is where vodka comes in.
“We sealed a bottle of vodka with our membranes and found that the distilled solution became stronger and stronger with time. Neither of us drinks vodka but it was great fun to do the experiment,” said Dr. Nair.
The team of researchers includes Andre K. Geim, awarded with the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics, along with Konstantin Novoselov, for their discoveries regarding graphene. Still uncertain about the possible applications of these membranes, apart from distilling, Geim is sure they’ll find out: “The properties are so unusual that it is hard to imagine that they cannot find some use in the design of filtration, separation or barrier membranes, and for selective removal of water.”
As for now, there is an immediate clear result: vodka consumers will learn what “graphene” is, and the word of its miraculous properties will keep spreading even among the non scientific community.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Nair RR, Wu HA, Jayaram PN, Grigorieva IV, & Geim AK (2012). Unimpeded permeation of water through helium-leak-tight graphene-based membranes. Science (New York, N.Y.), 335 (6067), 442-4 PMID: 22282806