An interesting twist of chemistry has been discovered at the University of Illinois College of Engineering. Scientists hope to use graphene, a single-atom thick plane of carbon, in gas sensors because of its strength and characteristics often found in nanostructures existing on a macro-scale.
The new research has found that imperfections in the graphene can improve its detection capabilities. All gas detectors work by a material’s electrical resistance changing as gas particles fall on it. What the imperfections do is provide areas for the gas particles to attach to and make their effect more apparent. Some molecules attach at a single point, so resistance is little affected, as a current can just flow around the point. By making an entire line of imperfections though, the change in resistance will have to be noticed. You can think of it like a pot hole in the road and a speed bump. A pot hole can be driven around, but a speed bump you cannot avoid.