Research Highlights

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Solar-powered devices from ultrathin carbon films 

Published online 8 July 2015

Scientists create unconventional thin carbon films with excellent sensitivity and selectivity for biomolecules. 

Biplab Das

Using a novel technique, an international research team fabricated single-layered, nanoporous and transparent ultrathin carbon films that can be used to make sensors for detecting biomolecules such as glutathione.   

Dongyuan Zhao and his teammates from China-based Fudan University, Qatar University and King Saud University produced the ultrathin carbon films on 50-nm-thick aluminium-oxide-coated silicon wafers by allowing self-assembly of organic polymers known as monomicelles under hydrothermal conditions at 130 °C. 

The film-coated wafers exhibited polished mirror-like surfaces, showing that the carbon films were ultrathin and homogenous.

The scientists then peeled off the films from the wafers and transferred them to different substrates such as a copper grid, reduced graphene oxide and iron oxide nanorods. Using the films, they also made discs, wires and rods that ranged in sizes from the nanoscale to inches. 

They found that the modified film on the iron oxide nanorods was selective enough to detect glutathione even in the presence of other biomolecules such as bovine serum albumin, cysteine, dopamine, aspartic acid and glucose.

“The transparent and flexible ultrathin films could potentially be used to make solar-powered wearable and human-skin-attachable devices,” comments Zhao. 


  1. Fang, Y. et al. Growth of single-layered two-dimensional mesoporous polymer/carbon films by self-assembly of monomicelles at the interfaces of various substrates. Angew. Chem. Int. (2015).