By Hamish Johnston
I came across this fantasic poster this afternoon. It tells how Vihar Mohanty and Vikas Berry went about wrapping a live bacterium in a sheet of graphene.
The point of the work, which was done at Kansas State University, is to explore ways of combining manmade nanodevices with naturally occuring ones such as bacteria. This could lead to “bio batteries” in which biochemical processes within bacteria could be tapped as a source of energy for tiny devices — allowing such devices to operate within the body for example.
A big challenge in this kind of bionics is getting the nanostructure to stick to the bacteria. What Mohanty and Berry did was use graphene oxide — a sheet of carbon and oxygen just one atom thick — which has has an affinity for certain molecules found on the surface of bacteria. By mixing the bacteria and graphene oxide in a solution they found that some of the bacteria were completely wrapped up.
If you look at the poster above (sorry for the poor photo) you can see a fully wrapped bacterium at the bottom of the third column.