Nanocarbons are carbon-based materials that are manipulated at an atomic or molecular level (down to a billionth of a metre) to give them exceptional properties. These materials have applications ranging from biomedical sciences to robotics. The EU-funded ENSOR (Evolving nanocarbon strategies in (bio-) organic remits) project developed new nanocarbons for, among other uses, developing biosensors, screening bacteria, repairing DNA and regenerating nerve cells. Scientists modified the structure, geometry and chemical properties of the nanocarbons to produce a range of specialised materials. These include nano-scale structures with fibrous, globular or spiral shapes, and ultra-thin nanofilms. Importantly, ENSOR developed ways to produce single-layer and multilayer graphene, an atomic-scale 2D honeycomb of carbon atoms. Graphene is about 100 times stronger than steel, conducts heat and electricity efficiently, and is nearly transparent. These extraordinary properties make graphene highly valuable for optical, thermal, mechanical and biological applications. ENSOR also developed a graphene derivative called graphene oxide that may be used to repair human tissues, deliver drugs to cells and detect chemical compounds. To check their safety, scientists analysed how graphene oxide particles interact with mammalian cell membranes and how toxic or stable they are within living cells. Through collaboration involving EU, Japanese and Russian scientists, ENSOR has produced new nanocarbons for academic and industrial use.
Nanocarbons, biomedical, nano-scale, graphene, graphene oxide