Thin and strong, graphene sheets form spheres spontaneously for drug release

Graphene's honeycomb structure, making it strong and only one atom thick--Courtesy of AlexanderAIUS

Graphene is one of the thinnest and strongest known materials and has been used in drug delivery before. But the Nobel Prize-winning material could get another lease on life with a new discovery from Monash University in Australia that could make graphene an important drug release component.

Scientists discovered that the sheets of graphene oxide, which have a honeycomb structure 100 times stronger than steel at just one atom thick, can form liquid crystal droplets that change structure in an external magnetic field. This change in structure could help deliver drugs by initiating a targeted release.

"Drug delivery systems tend to use magnetic particles which are very effective but they can't always be used because these particles can be toxic in certain physiological conditions," lead author Mainak Majumder said in a statement. The study was published in the journal ChemComm. "In contrast, graphene doesn't contain any magnetic properties. This combined with the fact that we have proved it can be changed into liquid crystal simply and cheaply, strengthens the prospect that it may one day be used for a new kind of drug delivery system."

This spontaneous state change makes it so that advanced equipment such as atomizers aren't needed for the transformation--but by simply placing the graphene in a certain solution, the material acts like a polymer without that intervention.

"To be able to spontaneously change the structure of graphene from single sheets to a spherical assembly is hugely significant," co-author Rachel Tkacz said. "No one thought that was possible. We've proved it is."

- here's the release