While graphene continues its seemingly inexorable march towards electronics applications, I've also been chronicling some of the attempts to use graphene in applications outside of electronics.
Along these lines, researchers at the University of Buffalo have now developed a use for graphene that rustproofs steel in a less toxic way than other methods.
Sarbajit Banerjee, PhD, an assistant professor, and Robert Dennis, a PhD student, determined that graphene’s hydrophobic and conductive properties made it an ideal candidate for preventing corrosion. According to Banerjee in an Phys.org article, graphene actually stunts electro-chemical reactions that transform iron into iron oxide, otherwise known as rust.
Graphene would replace the environmentally unfriendly hexavalent chromium in the rustproofing process of steel. This chemical has brought on a slew of environmental regulations that have taken their toll on the bottom line of some steel manufacturers.
In the video below, Robert Dennis explains a bit about the technology and also the inspiration to look at finding a more environmentally friendly approach to rustproofing steel.
“Our product can be made to work with the existing hardware of many factories that specialize in chrome electroplating, including job shops in Western New York that grew around Bethlehem Steel," explains Banerjee in the Phys.org article. "This could give factories a chance to reinvent themselves in a healthy way in a regulatory environment that is growing increasingly harsh when it comes to chromium pollution."
To add a double irony to the story, the inspiration for this line of research came from the hope of help turning around the local steel business that's part of the broader Great Lakes industrial area known as the Rust Belt, and while the domestic industry is suffering largely due to outsourcing, the steel company that supported much of the research was India-based Tata Steel.
Dexter Johnson is a contributing editor at IEEE Spectrum, with a focus on nanotechnology.