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Earth Medicine Science

Graphene Could Be Dangerous To Humans and the Environment 135

Zothecula (1870348) writes "It's easy to get carried away when you start talking about graphene. Its properties hold the promise of outright technological revolution in so many fields that it has been called a wonder material. Two recent studies, however, give us a less than rosy angle. In the first, a team of biologists, engineers and material scientists at Brown University examined graphene's potential toxicity in human cells. Another study by a team from University of California, Riverside's Bourns College of Engineering examined how graphene oxide nanoparticles might interact with the environment if they found their way into surface or ground water sources."
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Graphene Could Be Dangerous To Humans and the Environment

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  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @05:46AM (#46887523) Journal
    Only if you really oxidize it, good and hard. Carbon's ability to bond fairly strongly with itself, and graphite's mixture of strong bonds within layers and weak bonds between them allow for a variety of vexingly complex oxidized forms that definitely have a lot more oxygen grafted on than the non-oxide form; but still retain much of their graphite layer structure.
  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @05:51AM (#46887541) Homepage

    "Only if you really oxidize it, good and hard"

    Yes - its called fire!

    Joking aside , it does seem the nano engineers are somewhat taking liberties with the chemical naming system since graphene isn't an element - its an allotrope. You might as well say diamond oxide which would be equally non sensical.

  • Re:Grey goo (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 01, 2014 @05:57AM (#46887559)

    Ever since I first heard about the idea of grey goo, I've always wondered why no-one realises that grey goo already exists: they're called bacteria and viruses. They reproduce unchecked, can have catastrophic consequences for all other forms of life, and are largely carbon-based nano-machines.

    The idea of self-replicating small entities is the same, but that bacteria is micrometer scale not nanoscale aside, the difference is the scenario where gray goo consume everything. Virus replicate only within living cells, and most of them in a non-deadly (even if somewhat harmful) symbiosis with the host. Grey goo nano-machines consume raw materials, not only us, but all the stuff around us (including what we try to contain them with).

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @06:03AM (#46887587) Journal
    I get the impression that, once you get into the realm of molecules that can easily be thousands to tens of thousands of atoms in size (and, just for extra fun, 'graphene oxide nanoparticle' isn't even a specific molecule, just a gigantic class of various differently shaped and sized hunks of graphene with assorted oxidizers grafted on here and there. There might actually be no two alike in a modestly sized sample...) 'systematic naming' becomes a bit of a joke. Assuming your pet molecule doesn't break some hitherto trusted rule it can probably be named; but you aren't going to want to read the result.

    It's still arguably sloppy, there just aren't terribly good options.
  • by azav ( 469988 ) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @07:36AM (#46887843) Homepage Journal

    it's* called fire

            it's = it is

    Learn this.

  • by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @07:39AM (#46887847)

    Chemist here: the "chemical naming system" as you so quaintly put it makes enormous distinctions between materials with the same composition but different structures, so yes, we refer to graphene oxide, graphite oxide, oxidised diamond, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and every other possible combination of carbon and oxygen because they have entirely different properties.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 01, 2014 @07:48AM (#46887881)

    "All substances are poisonous; there is none which is not a poison. The right dose differentiates a poison and a remedy" Von der Besucht, Paracelsus, 1567

  • by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @08:19AM (#46887961)

    Carbon shows signs of potentially being rather nastier in its fancy forms than it is in more familiar flavors; but other nanomaterials might go the other way.

    Unlikely. The problem with "nano" anything is that small particles are hard to filter out, for example by your nose and throat, and thus tend to get where they aren't wanted, for example into your lungs. Whenever you hear "nanoparticle" think "really fine dust"; if the bulk material is toxic, why wouldn't the dust be? Remember that poison needs to get into your body to poison you, so a solid lump is harmless unless you eat it, but dust tends to float in the air and get sucked in when you inhale.

    But luckily, most of the promises of graphene - specifically, carbon nanotubes - depend on producing longer fibers, which should have the side effect of solving this problem.

  • Oxidane (Score:5, Informative)

    by tepples ( 727027 ) <{tepples} {at} {}> on Thursday May 01, 2014 @10:52AM (#46888963) Homepage Journal
    Dihydrogen monoxide [], hydrogen hydroxide, hydroxylic acid, etc. are all humorous names for the abundant compound oxidane []. In solid phase it's also called ice, in liquid phase it's water, and in gas phase it's steam. It doesn't have the same sort of allotropic variation as elemental carbon.

What is algebra, exactly? Is it one of those three-cornered things? -- J.M. Barrie