New graphene flake research has shown for the first time that the material can be used as a surfactant that can stabilize mixtures of oil and water, opening the door for industrial applications including oil extraction and paper processing, according to Phys.org.
The researchers discovered graphene flakes smaller than 1-micron lateral size repels water on its surface. Traditional surfactants are prone to degrading under intense heat or high-pressure environments. Graphene, however, can maintain its functionality even at high temperatures or when exposed to radiation. These properties give researchers hope for the material’s use as a high-performance surfactant.
The practical applications for this discovery could include a more stable, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly way to extract minerals, crude oil, or ores from rock. It could even improve flameproofing, waterproofing, and lubricants to make drilling operations more efficient.
Krzysztof Koziol, professor of composites engineering and head of the Enhanced Composites and Structures Centre at Cranfield University, said, “This new finding, and clear experimental demonstration of surfactant behaviour of graphene, has exciting possibilities for many industrial applications.”