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Lipid layers may allow graphene to be used in the human body

Measuring the electric conduction of graphene while inside the body is key to its potential as a future biosensor.

By Brooks Hays
Lipid layers may allow graphene to be used in the human body
An illustration shows a layer of graphene resting atop a lipid substrate. Photo by Leiden University

LEIDEN, Netherlands, Sept. 28 (UPI) -- Graphene is extremely sensitive to its surroundings, making it an ideal source material for biosensors. However, graphene must be mounted on a stable substrate so its structural integrity is maintained.

For applications outside the human body, graphene is typically mounted on hard inorganic materials. But to transport graphene through the human body, scientists need a substrate derived from organic materials.

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Recently, researchers at Leiden University found what they were looking for. Scientists in the Netherlands succeeded in placing graphene on top of a stable fatty lipid monolayer -- a first.

Lipids are fat molecules. They form a protective double layer around cell membranes. Researchers believe if they can sandwich a layer of graphene between two layers of lipid molecules, the 2D material will be ready for a journey into the human body.

"[It is] a method that is already used with cancer medicines," Leiden chemist Grégory Schneider said in a news release -- describing the initial success. "We made a single layer of lipids in the lab and transferred graphene on top: a first step towards mimicking the cell membrane."

In their experiments -- detailed in the journal Nanoscale -- Schneider and his researcher partner Lia Lima found the lipid layer enhanced the conductivity of graphene. Measuring the electric conduction of graphene while inside the body is key to its potential as a future biosensor. Electric currents can offer clues as to the presence of acids and proteins.

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Now, researchers just need to find a way to build the lipid-graphene sandwich.

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