Two years ago, we covered research out of the University of Manchester that demonstrated that graphene-based membranes could serve as a filter for cleaning up nuclear waste at nuclear power plants.
While it’s not clear that this particular application for the graphene membranes ever made much headway in nuclear waste cleanup, they did discover an interesting phenomenon about these graphene membranes in the ensuing two years: protons can transport through graphene.
Based on that knowledge, Andre Geim’s team at the University of Manchester began to investigate whether light could be used to enhance proton transport through graphene by the addition of other light sensitive materials, such as titanium dioxide (TiO2). Turns out that graphene did the job quite effectively on their own.
“We were not expecting that graphene on its own – without the addition these light sensitive ingredients – would show any response,” said Marcelo Lozada-Hidalgo of the University of Manchester and co-author of this research and the work from two years ago. “We were very surprised by our results.”