Scientists at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, Australia have developed a new drying agent made from graphene oxide which they believe is twice as absorbent as silica gel.
Among its potential applications is using it to keep footwear fresh.
The material was developed by a team at UNSW’s school of materials science and engineering. A study on their work has been published in the journal Chemical Science.
“This is a stable new material that shows significant gains in adsorption capacity over conventional desiccants (drying agents),” said Dr Rakesh Joshi, who led the research team.
“One novel application we are investigating is the integration of the desiccant into inner soles of shoes to control odour and moisture. As the moisture could be released back into the atmosphere using an ordinary household device like a warm oven, shoes could be recharged regularly to keep them constantly fresh.”
The new agent is made of graphene oxide, derived from graphene, the revolutionary ultra-thin material first isolated by researchers at the University of Manchester in the UK in 2004.
Research carried out at UNSW showed this material’s extraordinary adsorption and desorption rates were due to the high capillary pressure in the laminates and the tunnel-like wrinkles on their surfaces. This wasn’t previously understood.
The UNSW team say the ability to adapt the spaces between the layers of graphene oxide as desired will allow for the development of customised desiccants to control moisture across multiple applications.
They add that their new drying agent can discharge moisture at low temperatures, allowing it to be used over and over again. This is in contrast to the high cost of the heating required to regenerate conventional desiccants, the study explains.