A University of Manchester research team has found that graphene’s surface properties can control the structure and formation of organic crystals, according to Phys.org.
Such crystal structures are commonly found in products ranging from food, pharmaceuticals, color pigments, and even explosives. Organic crystals also come in a variety called polymorphs, which have the same chemical composition as other crystal structures, but very different chemical and physical characteristics.
How these crystal structures are formed at the molecular level, as well as their stability, can have a dramatic impact on how the product they compose works. For example, the incorrect polymorph can result in bad-tasting food or render a drug ineffective. The ability to create and control the formation of a polymorph, so-called crystal engineering, could have big implications for researchers and industry.
“Ultimately, we have shown that advanced materials, such as graphene and the tools of nanotechnology enable us to study crystallisation of organic molecules from a solution in a radically new way. We are now excited to move towards molecules that are commonly used for pharmaceuticals and food to further investigate the potential of graphene in the field of crystal engineering,” said Professor Cinzia Casiraghi, the research team lead.