Issue Date: November 28, 2017
Chemistry in Pictures: Unburstable bubbles
This glass beaker contains bubbles filled with paraffin wax in 60 °C water. The bubbles hold their shape instead of quickly disappearing thanks to graphene oxide. Graphene oxide has a special chemical structure: Its base plane is hydrophobic and attracted to wax, but it also has functional groups that are hydrophilic and attracted to water. This structure makes graphene oxide a surfactant, similar to detergent molecules. The graphene oxide molecules adsorb onto the surfaces of the wax bubbles, stabilizing them in the beaker of water. Yixin Liu at North Carolina State University is experimenting with chemically modifying the mixture of graphene oxide and wax, the applications of which are yet to be determined.
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