Graphene is the name for an atom-thick honeycomb sheet of carbon atoms. It is the building block for other graphitic materials (since a typical carbon atom has a diameter of about 0.33 nanometers, there are about 3 million layers of graphene in 1 mm of graphite). Harder than diamond yet more elestic than rubber; tougher than steel yet lighter than aluminium. Graphene is the strongest known material.
Health risk – Masks
Graphene, the superstar of 2D materials, has been most explored as an antimicrobial in various areas. Graphene and its derivatives have also been widely used with other antimicrobial agents, taking advantage of their large surface area, for a synergistic effect to enhance antimicrobial efficacy. Recently, the excellent photothermal properties of graphene in NIR regions have been utilized to increase the surface temperature and thus inactivate microorganisms.
Graphene. These just one-atom thick carbon structures is without doubt the most buzzed-about material in the world of science today. Kostya Novoselov and André Geim was awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize for their work on the matter and right now research teams all over the world are competing to turn knowledge into applications. The possibilities are endless. Mikael Fogelström, Professor at Chalmers, coordinates two large national research projects on graphene science. “We are still in the beginning”, he says.
How safe is graphene when it’s used in face masks and other consumer and professional products?
Graphene-based nanomaterials have many promising applications in energy-related areas. Just some recent examples: Graphene improves both energy capacity and charge rate in rechargeable batteries; activated graphene makes superior supercapacitors for energy storage; graphene electrodes may lead to a promising approach for making solar cells that are inexpensive, lightweight and flexible; and multifunctional graphene mats are promising substrates for catalytic systems.
4 May 2021 –
The rise in single-use masks, and the associated waste, due to the COVID-19 pandemic has been documented as a new cause of pollution. The study aimed to explore this direct link — with investigations to identify the level of toxic substances present.
“There is a concerning amount of evidence that suggests that DPFs waste can potentially have a substantial environmental impact by releasing pollutants simply by exposing them to water. Many of the toxic pollutants found in our research have bio-accumulative properties when released into the environment and our findings show that DPFs could be one of the main sources of these environmental contaminants during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.
“It is, therefore, imperative that stricter regulations need to be enforced during manufacturing and disposal/recycling of DPFs to minimise the environmental impact.
Scientists have uncovered potentially dangerous chemical pollutants that are released from disposable face masks when submerged in water. The research reveals high levels of pollutants, including lead, antimony, and copper, within the silicon-based and plastic fibres of common disposable face masks.
Project lead Dr Sarper Sarp of Swansea University College of Engineering said: “All of us need to keep wearing masks as they are essential in ending the pandemic. But we also urgently need more research and regulation on mask production, so we can reduce any risks to the environment and human health.”
The findings reveal significant levels of pollutants in all the masks tested — with micro/nano particles and heavy metals released into the water during all tests. Researchers conclude this will have a substantial environmental impact and, in addition, raise the question of the potential damage to public health — warning that repeated exposure could be hazardous as the substances found have known links to cell death, genotoxicity and cancer formation.
22 June 2020 – Surgical masks are made up of several layers of non-woven plastic and can effectively filter very small particles, such as droplets of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). The masks typically contain an external waterproof layer and an internal absorbent layer.
Although masks made from scarves, T-shirts or other fabrics can’t provide the same level of protection and durability as surgical masks, they can block some of the large droplets exhaled by the wearer, hence protecting others from viral exposure. But their ability to filter droplets depends on their construction. Multi-layered cloth masks are better at filtering but harder to breathe through. And they become wetter quicker than single-layer masks.
Is graphene toxic to the human body? Will graphene remain flat, or is it possible to form it into 3-D shapes? Researchers in Carnegie Mellon’s College of Engineering recently published insights to both questions. Graphene is an attractive material to create devices to interface with neurons in the brain. Yang, who studies material transport in neurons, is working to better understand our brains on the cellular level in order to improve treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.
Cohen-Karni’s team was successful in growing graphene in 3-D by first creating a mesh of nanowires made of silicon, which acted as a surface for the graphene to grow on. Then, the team exposed the mesh to methane plasma, which resulted in carbon separating from the methane and depositing onto the mesh, forming graphene.
Graphene has been hailed by many as the “wonder material” of the 21st century. The carbon-based material is nearly 200 times stronger than steel, flexible, nearly transparent, and highly conductive to heat and electricity. Since graphene is just a single layer of carbon atoms connected in a hexagonal pattern, it is also extremely thin and lightweight, and therefore an attractive material for nanotechnology applications.
Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Computational Biology Ge Yang discusses his research in drug transport to neurons for the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Tzahi Cohen-Karni describes his work to record electrical signals in three dimensions. The assistant professor of biomedical engineering and materials science and engineering discusses this work, which could help advance human disease research.
Jan. 26, 2021 — Anthony Fauci, MD, says wearing two masks is better than one when it comes to warding off the coronavirus.
Double masking has also become kind of fashionable as the Biden administration puts an emphasis on it. People watching the inauguration may have noticed that poet Amanda Gorman and Pete Buttigieg, Biden’s nominee to run the Transportation Department, were double masking with cloth masks over surgical masks.
For “maximal protection,” a person should wear a cloth mask on top of a surgical mask, with the surgical mask acting as a filter and the cloth mask providing an extra filtering layer and improving the fit.
Also acceptable, the researchers say, is a three-layer mask with “outer layers consisting of a flexible, tightly woven fabric that can conform well to the face and a middle layer consisting of a nonwoven high-efficiency filter material.”
The purpose of a mask is to prevent droplets and the virus from reaching a person’s mouth and nose, he said on the Today show, so increasing the barriers naturally increases protection.
“If you have a physical covering with one layer, you put another layer on, it just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective,” said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “And that’s the reason why you see people either double masking or doing a version of an N95.”
N95 masks are expensive, and the CDC recommends they be reserved for health care workers, but health experts say double masking is easy and something of a no-brainer.
“Double layering is adding extra filtration, but a lot of the benefit also comes in making sure you are covering those gaps around the mask, because not every mask you put on fits equally,”
says Alice Sato, MD, an epidemiologist at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha, NE.