New study shows how engineers tamed the notoriously fickle supermaterial in aerogel form with 3-D printer and ice.BUFFALO, N.Y. – Graphene is a wonder material saddled with great expectations.Discovered in 2004, it is 1 million times thinner than a human hair, 300 times stronger than steel and it’s the best known conductor of heat and electricity. These qualities could, among other things, make computers faster, batteries more powerful and solar panels more efficient.But the material is tough to manipulate beyond its two-dimensional form.Recently, scientists poured graphene oxide suspension, a gel-like form of the material, into freezing molds to create 3-D objects. The process works, but only with simple structures that have limited commercial applications. Another option is to use a 3-D printer. In this scenario, scientists typically mix graphene with a polymer or other thickening agent. This helps keep the structure from falling apart. But when the polymer is removed via thermal process, it damages the delicate structure.A research team – comprised of engineers from the University at Buffalo, Kansas State University and the Harbin Institute of Technology in China – may have solved that problem.
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