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A group of Spanish scientists from the University of Cordoba has succeeded in making graphene develop luminosity.

Luminescent Materials Can Emit Visible Light from Energy

In a study by the FQM-346 research group at the Department of Organic Chemistry at the University of Cordoba, it has been possible to incorporate luminescence into graphene. Although it had been tried before, all previous attempts had been unsuccessful.

This material, lighter than aluminum, harder than diamond, more elastic than rubber and more resistant than steel, behaves as an excellent thermal and electrical conductor. Because of these special features, it will play an important role in future technological advances in areas such as research, electronics, computers and medicine.

Now researchers have found a way to make this material glow – a property it previously lacked and which now opens up a new field of application.

According to Professor Francisco José Romero Salguero, one of the authors of the research, luminescence is a property of some substances that allows them to emit light at a different wavelength than the one they absorb. In other words, luminescent materials can emit visible light from energy, a property that makes them useful as photocatalysts or fluorescent markers for visualization in macromolecules and biological materials.

In Sandwich Form

The study was published in Chemistry: A European Journal, sponsored by the main European chemical societies, and included UCO researchers Juan Amaro Gahete, César Jiménez-Sanchidrián and Dolores Esquivel, along with another Belgian research group.

What makes graphene special is its hexagonal structure of carbon atoms, which are highly cohesive due to a kind of electronic cloud in the form of a sandwich. According to researcher Francisco Romero, if the connection between the atoms of this cloud is broken, some of its properties are lost.

It is precisely in overcoming this obstacle that the success of the research lies. The group has managed to impart luminescence to this material without affecting its other properties, thus preserving the functionality of its complex structure. To do this, they incorporated europium into the graphene, a metal that coordinates perfectly with the modified molecules of this material and is responsible for its luminescent properties.

Further Research

The results offer immediate applications, as this luminescent graphene can be used in biological materials and in tissue cell analysis. However, the research goes even further. The fact that europium was used “is simply a proof of concept,” said César Jiménez-Sanchidrián, a professor at the University of Córdoba.

The study opens the door to using a variety of chemical elements that could be combined with graphene from now on to give it new properties. For example, if certain types of metals are integrated, a magnetic graphene could be created.

In short, it is a line of research on which this group, belonging to the University Institute of Nanochemistry (IUNAN) and the Faculty of Sciences, will continue to work, with the aim of adding new properties to the list of qualities of graphene, increasing the versatility of a substance that has more than promising properties and that has already earned the label of “material of the future”.