In the Netherlands, Delft University of Technology researchers are using bacteria and 3-D printing to produce graphene. The work could yield a more environmentally friendly route to the versatile, single-layer carbon material. Currently, production requires chemicals or extreme heat.
Anne Meyer and her colleagues proved the concept by modifying a normal 3-D printer to print a mixture of algae-based gel and bacteria in lines 1 millimeter wide on a dish containing calcium ions, which fixed the material in place. Eventually the goal would be to print a graphene-oxide-reducing bacterium, called Shewanella oneidensis, onto graphene oxide. The bacteria would pull off the oxygen atoms, leaving graphene.
Meyer tells New Scientist that it would be difficult to precisely print the bacteria. The S. oneidensis would need growth media to survive long enough to reduce the graphene oxide. Once optimized, however, the technology could be a better option for producing small-scale graphene structures.