What can't graphene
do? The wonder material's been at the heart of a stunning number of technological breakthroughs of late, and now it's adding oil exploration to its long list of achievements. A team of researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
have discovered that the flow of good old H2
O over a sheet of graphene can generate enough electricity to power "tiny sensors" used in tracking down oil deposits. The gang, led by professor Nikhil Koratkar, was able to suck 85 nanowatts of power out of a slab of graphene measuring .03 by .015 millimeters. The little sensors the researchers speak of are pumped into potential oil wells via a stream of water, and are then put to work sniffing out hydrocarbons indicative of hidden pockets of oil and natural gas. Of course, that doesn't have a whole lot of practical application for your average gadget consumer, but Koraktar sees a future filled with tiny water-powered robots and micro-submarines -- we can dig it.