Graphene layers (atom-thick sheets of carbon, in near future) can provide a visual indication of “mechanical stress”, potential structural failure

This email is not about your “garden-variety gene-environment interactions,” but rather it presents a detector system to search for early signs of architectural stress. From this standpoint, I find this exciting, intriguing. And perhaps, through further development, these graphene nanoplatelets (GNPs) could be somehow used for monitoring for early signs of “excess stress” that perhaps the living animal (or plant) cell probably cannot tolerate –– if the stress were to continue at that level.

“Variable structural coloration” can result in brilliant color changes in nature, due to interaction of light with periodic photonic nanostructures. Authors [see attached publication] report the observations of variable structural coloration from red, orange, yellow, to green –– in a composite interphase region. By overlapping GNPs with ordered and disordered features, using a special deposition approach –– unique ‘‘fish scale’’-like structures are achieved. Variable structural coloration is observed through the mechanical tuning of fine parallel multilayers.

The authors propose that this method with incorporated variable structural coloration and electrical sensing functionality offers a first valuable step towards “danger-rating” and the “early warning signs” of microcracks prior to a material’s failure. This technique could be used with a few colors for addressing danger, alarm and safety in a ‘‘traffic light’’ system, train testles, or bridges built to withstand high volumes of motor vehicles as a function of time.

Mater Horiz (2o17) DOI: 10.1039/c6mh00559d

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