Plastic packaging is a great invention used to keep sensitive electronics and food protected from the elements, particularly moisture. While it is widely used for this purpose, plastic is still able to be permeated by water, making its effectiveness over time not ideal. When moisture gets inside this plastic packaging, it can cause devastating damage and corrosion to the items inside. Scientists have been working on a solution to this problem by infusing plastic with a material called graphene, making plastic a million times more waterproof.
While most products can handle small amounts of water vapor, electronics cannot. This problem prompted researchers to look into developing a better, more water resistant material that had the flexibility of plastic, but kept moisture out.
Researchers looked at graphene, which is a single layer of carbon atoms that are bonded in a pattern that closely resembles a honeycomb. By applying a single layer to polymer film, graphene reduces the permeability of the film to the millionth degree. It’s safe and very easy to mass produce, making this a very viable option for plastic production in the future.
Not only is graphene infused plastic great for electronic protection, it also makes a good conductor for electricity. Graphene infused plastic can withstand a higher degree of heat than the polymer alone. This could be an excellent solution to creating less expensive nanotubes.
“You can buy [graphite] in bags for dollars a pound, while single-walled nanotubes are hundreds of dollars per gram,” says Catherine Brinson, a mechanical-engineering professor at Northwestern University.
The toxicity levels in the compounds are much less than in regular carbon nanotubes. Carbon nanotubes are able to thin enough to penetrate the lungs and cause cancer. Graphene can’t do that, so the safety concerns are much fewer. Graphene could be used to make lighter fuel tanks and car parts, as well as making wind turbines and medical implants stronger. Plastic infused with graphene can help keep food fresher longer.
The benefits to this new polymer infusion go on and on. More research is still needed to confirm and perfect the compound, but it appears that graphene infused polymer could revolutionize the way we use plastic.