Graphene, the single layer of carbon atoms that holds so much promise for quantum computing, is useful stuff indeed.
Today it emerges that as well as keeping your qubits safe, it can filter arsenic out of your drinking water (although you may want to have a word with your landlord about why there is arsenic in your drinking water to begin with) and it could be used to create real-time DNA readers.
First, to the arsenic. Flippancy aside, arsenic contamination of drinking water is a major health issue, especially in regions where it is mined, or where the water supply simply passes through arsenic containing rocks. Now PhysicsWorld reports that a group in South Korea has created a new compositematerioal based on graphene to soak up arsenic.
A reduced graphene oxide can be combined with an iron mineral, in this case magnetite, which would otherwise oxidise too quickly to be useful in removing arsenic from outdoor water sources. The magnetite - RGO composite absorbs the arsenic and the whole lot is removed from the water using a permanent magnet. Neat.
The Korean team has developed a new composite that can scoop 99.9 per cent of the arsenic out of a sample, bringing its concentration to below one part per billion. Arsenic is toxic above 10ppb.
And the DNA? Well, the researchers at the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience imagine that ultimately they will be able to decode your genome base by base, in real time, as they could slide a ribbon between your fingers. And with the help of somewhat perforated graphene membranes, they have taken the first step towards their dream.
According to Nanotechwire the researchers have succeeded in sliding a single DNA molecule through a hole in a a graphene membrane. By applying a voltage across the graphene, the team was also able to detect each molecule as it passed through the hole, briefly causing the current to drop.