A team of researchers at UNSW has observed a unique phenomenon in graphene oxide (GO). The oxygen atoms in GO are normally attached in a rather chaotic way. At elevated temperatures, however, the oxygen atoms form more organized structures – by themselves. This process of ‘self-organization’ was found to drastically improve various properties of GO – for example, its electrical conductivity.
For years, researchers have been aware that this phenomenon existed, but they could only demonstrate it using computational simulations. The new research, led by Dr. Rakesh Joshi at UNSW, successfully observed it for the first time in real life, using cutting-edge electron microscopy. While common microscopes use light to create a magnified image, electron microscopes use electrons. With this type of microscope, it is possible to observe single atoms, by magnifying what you’re looking at by a factor of 1,000,000.