New research suggests a graphene coating may help control the water evaporation process from various surfaces.

Analysts from two Beijing-based institutes teamed up to demonstrate how graphene suppresses the evaporation rate on hydrophilic surfaces and accelerates it on hydrophobic ones.

That’s great news for slowly vaporizing lakes and reservoirs.

“Water droplet evaporation is a ubiquitous and complicated phenomenon, and plays a pivotal role in nature and industry,” lead study author Yongfeng Huang, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said in a statement.

“Understanding its mechanism at the atomic scale, and controlling evaporation rate rationally is important for applications including heat transfer and body-temperature control,” he explained. “However, it remains a significant challenge.”

In a paper published this week by the journal 2D Materials, the group details interactions of water molecules with various graphene-covered surfaces.

“We found graphene is ‘transparent’ for evaporation,” Huang said. “When a hydrophilic surface [attracted to water] is coated with graphene, the contact line of the water droplet is dramatically shortened or elongated, because of adjustment in wetting angles. This leads to changes in the evaporation rate.”

A sheet of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice, graphene is the basic structural element of other forms of carbon, including graphite and charcoal.

The much-talked-about allotrope has gained attention among battery manufacturers, excited about its top-notch physical and chemical stability. It’s also caught the eye of British sportswear brand inov-8, which partnered with the University of Manchester to incorporate graphene into running and fitness shoes.

Famed for its toughness and conductivity, the basic structural element has been touted as a “miracle material,” ideal for use in edible electronics. Scientists at Rice University are testing new ways to embed graphene patterns onto food, fabric, wood, and other objects.

This latest research, as described by University of Warwick professor James Sprittles, opens the door to “several interesting topics for future research,” including how molecular effects can be incorporated into macroscopic modeling… whatever that means.

“Our results are an important discovery on graphene-mediated evaporation,” Huang boasted, “and also point to new ways to rationally control evaporation process, for realistic applications in heat transfer, printing, and related areas.”

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