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Medical applications for liquid crystal form of graphene

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STRATEGIC Energy Resources says its research partners at Monash University have found a way to use graphene medically.

SER has been working with Monash University researchers for many years on various applications of graphene. SER and Monash University was the first recipient of an Australian Research Council Linkage grant for graphene research in Australia.

Graphene already has potential application in electronics, energy storage and energy generation. But researchers from Monash University have found that graphene oxide sheets can change structure to become liquid crystal droplets spontaneously and without any specialist equipment.

These easy-to-produce graphene droplets could be used in drug delivery and disease detection.

Dr Mainak Majumder from the Faculty of Engineering said because graphene droplets change their structure in response to the presence of an external magnetic field, it could be used for controlled drug release applications.

“Drug delivery systems tend to use magnetic particles which are very effective but they can’t always be used because these particles can be toxic in certain physiological conditions,” Dr Majumder said.

“In contrast, graphene doesn’t contain any magnetic properties. This combined with the fact that we have proved it can be changed into liquid crystal simply and cheaply, strengthens the prospect that it may one day be used for a new kind of drug delivery system."

While normally graphene is transformed into spherical form via the use of atomisers and mechanical equipment, in this case all the team did was to put the graphene sheets in a solution to process it for industrial use. At the correct acidity levels, graphene behaves like a polymer, changing shape by itself.

The accidental discovery of the mechanism to spontaneously change the structure of graphene from single sheets to a spherical assembly is hugely significant, claim the researchers.

Since graphene-based assemblies can change shape under certain conditiions, the researchers hope to apply this knowledge to see if it changes when exposed to toxins, potentially paving the way for new methods of disease detection.

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