In order to create new medical devices, researchers are turning to nanomaterials, which are manipulated on the scale of atoms or molecules and exhibit unique properties.

Graphene, a flake of carbon as thin as a single later of atoms, is a revolutionary nanomaterial due to its ability to easily conduct electricity, as well as its impressive mechanical strength and flexibility. Despite its potential, a major barrier in adopting it for everyday applications is producing the material on a large scale, while still retaining its properties.

In a paper published in the journal ChemOpen, Anne S. Meyer, an associate professor of biology at the University of Rochester, and her colleagues at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, have found a solution. Researchers used a novel technique to produce graphene materials involving mixing oxidised graphite with bacteria. Their method is a more cost-efficient, time-saving, and environmentally friendly way of producing graphene materials compared with those produced chemically, and could lead to the creation of novel devices.

The bacterially-produced graphene material created in Meyer's lab is conductive but also thinner and more stable than graphene produced traditionally. It can also be stored for longer periods of time, making it well suited for a variety of applications, including field-effect transistor (FET) biosensors and conducting ink. FET biosensors are devices that detect biological molecules and could be used to perform real-time glucose monitoring for diabetics.

“Our bacterially produced graphene material will lead to far better suitability for product development,” Meyer says. “We were even able to develop a technique of 'bacterial lithography' to create graphene materials that were only conductive on one side, which can lead to the development of new, advanced nanocomposite materials.”