James Tour at Rice University has a history of finding links between carbon nanotubes and graphene, which are often regarded merely as rivals for a host of electronic applications .
A few years back, Tour developed a process for “unzipping” carbon nanotubes so that they transformed into graphene.
Now Tour and his colleagues have used that unzipping technique to develop a method in which carbon nanotubes are used as a kind of reinforcing rebar for graphene , protecting it during the manufacturing process.
Because to produce high-quality graphene for electronic applications (a promising one is replacing indium tin oxide as a transparent conductor in displays for controlling pixels), a manufacturing process known as chemical vapor deposition (CVD) is used, and CVD has an Achilles heel: while it is possible to grow large sheets of graphene on a copper substrate in a furnace, when you try to remove the graphene sheets from the copper, you find that it is difficult to do so without breaking the graphene.
A reinforcement polymer is usually laid over the graphene to keep it from breaking during its removal, but this polymer leaves impurities.