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Researchers have found yet another remarkable use for the wonder material graphene — tiny electronic “tweezers” that can grab biomolecules floating in water with incredible efficiency. This capability could lead to a revolutionary handheld disease diagnostic system that could be run on a smartphone. Graphene, a material made of a single layer of carbon atoms, was discovered more than a decade ago and has enthralled researchers with its range of amazing properties that have found uses in many new applications from microelectronics to solar cells. The graphene tweezers are vastly more effective at trapping particles compared to other techniques used in the past due to the fact that graphene is a single atom thick, less than 1 billionth of a meter. Another exciting prospect for this technology is that graphene can also “feel” the trapped biomolecules. In other words, the tweezers can be used as biosensors with exquisite sensitivity that can be displayed using simple electronic techniques.
Image credit: Peter Allen/University of California, Santa Barbara