Reach out and touch each other. That's something that carbon atoms in adjoining layers within graphite aren't supposed to do–even in the cores of nuclear reactors where graphite blocks take a beating from neutron radiation.
New atomic-level simulations in England challenge that expectation. The findings, if confirmed, may revise not only the way that specialists handle spent nuclear-reactor cores but also how technologists build novel, nanometer-scale carbon structures.
Graphite has a crystal structure consisting of many one-atom-thick carbon sheets known as graphene. The spacing between sheets is more than twice that between atoms within the sheets, so the forces between sheets are extremely weak.