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Graphene: miracle material and potentially potent pollutant

Sharif Sakr
April 30, 2014
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While the rest of the world has been harping on about how strong, conductive, light-sensitive and generally amazing graphene is, stern-faced researchers at the University of California have been investigating the material's potential downsides. They've shown that graphene oxide nanoparticles fail to break apart easily in lakes and rivers, such that they can last a long time and travel large distances in water, potentially with serious consequences for the environment. As to what these consequences might be, exactly, nobody really knows -- although there's growing evidence that certain forms of graphene can be toxic, especially if they come into contact with the lungs. At this point, however, the main conclusion reached by Dr. Jacob Lanphere and his colleagues at UC Riverside is simply that humanity needs to stop and think about how it's going to house, transport and dispose of this stuff safely:

"The situation today is similar to where we were with chemicals and pharmaceuticals 30 years ago... We just don't know much about what happens when these engineered nanomaterials get into the ground or water."

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