Researchers from Rice University have used graphene nanoribbons (GNRs) to enhance a polymer material (thermoplastic polyurethane, or TPU) and make it more impermeable to pressurized gas. This could lead to much lighter gas tanks used in automobiles, soda bottles and even beer.

The researchers say that by adding the GNRs to the TPU, it made it a thousand times harder for gas molecules to escape through the material - even though the GNRs amount to 0.5% of the composite's weight. The GNRs were evenly dispersed through the material and were simply blocking the path for the gas molecules (graphene is totally impermeable, even for helium atoms).

A single graphene sheet coating is the perfect gas barrier, but making a large one to coat materials is not yet practical. The tam used GNRs made by unzipping multiwalled CNTs (MWCNTs). The ribbons are 200- to 300-nanometer-wide.