Warning, these videos do not show ‘toxic’ graphene

For the past few days, videos claiming to show graphene or graphene oxide – materials that some people believe are in Covid-19 vaccines – have been circulating on social media, making them toxic. All the videos show dark material moving in strange ways, sometimes in response to a magnet. But it turns out these videos don’t show any graphene.

There has been growing enthusiasm around the potential uses of graphene, a material that is incredibly light, conductive and flexible while being stronger than steel, since it was developed in 2004. People in fields ranging from biomedicine even electronics have been exploring its potential uses.

For the past few months, the material has also been popping up in conspiracy theories surrounding the Covid-19 vaccine. Some have said that graphene is the reason behind the alleged “magnetism” of the Pfizer vaccine, which the JowharObservers already debunked last May.

At the end of May, when this rumor was circulating in the Spanish-speaking world, our colleagues from the data verification services AFP Factuel and Maldita.es in Spain wrote articles that demonstrated that there was no graphene in the vaccine. They published more articles on the same topic in early July after a Spanish study made false claims that the Pfizer vaccine was made up of 99.9% graphene.

The material, which is still relatively unknown to the general public, has become a fixation for some. Videos purporting to show “graphene in action” have multiplied on Telegram channels populated by conspiracy theorists, as well as on Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok. These videos often show dark material of different consistencies that reacts to other objects as if it were magnetic.

Most of these videos claim to show “graphene oxide”, which does not have the same properties as graphene at all: it is not conductive or waterproof, for example. However, many people confuse them and talk about the two materials as if they were the same thing.

Videos of unrelated science experiments are used to show ‘graphene in action’

This first video shows little balls in a Petri dish that move in a strange way and connect in a chain. It spread widely on social media early last week. Legend states that it shows “graphene oxide” in the vaccine.

Our team did a reverse image search and found the original version of the video on the YouTube channel of the “Stanford Complexity Group”, linked to the American university of the same name.

The video, called “Self-Assembling Cables,” shows steel ball bearings floating in castor oil in a Petri dish with a metal rim. An electric current moves the balls when voltage is applied to them and they connect to each other. There is absolutely no graphene or graphene oxide on the plate.

The is a graphic created by the person who made the original video to show how the experiment works. © Stanford Complexity Group (YouTube screenshot)

The same thing happens in this other video, which shows a dark mass that begins to move in strange ways when a magnet is held close to it, until it actually envelops the magnet. Legend claims that this video shows what graphene oxide looks like.

Turns out this video is from a tutorial posted by Buzzfeed in 2016 to make some kind of slime for kids to play with. There are thousands of recipes online for slime. It requires iron oxide (not graphene), which explains its magnetic qualities.

Finally, there is this video, which aims to show the reaction of graphene when it is near a telephone. Again, no graphene is shown here, it is magnetic mineral, according to the Russian channel that posted the original video in 2015. Many skeptical viewers left comments in Russian suggesting that someone was probably using a hidden magnet to make the substance move. .

It is not magnetic and is not used in vaccines, but graphene may be a new frontier in biomedical research

The JowharObservers team contacted several experts to find out more about this material.

Graphene is technically a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb network. In nature, these layers are stacked on top of each other to form graphite, which is used to make pencil lead. Since graphene was first isolated into a single layer in 2004, several studies have been started to try to find potential uses for this material, including within the biomedical realm.

The video was made by “Graphene Flagship” to explain what graphene is.

Emmanuel Flahaut is director of research at the French research institute CNRS and is a specialist in graphene. He says there is no way that the substances in these videos are graphene, that it doesn’t look like that, and it’s not magnetic.

Graphene oxide appears to have some level of magnetic properties, but it cannot magnetize anything else. Graphene oxide in powder form is not attracted to a magnet. And if there is a little graphene oxide in a product, that would not be enough to introduce any magnetic properties to a significant level.

Flahaut described several potential uses of graphene in the biomedical field.

Its properties could be used for hyperthermia, that is, increasing the temperature of a certain area of ​​the body through radiation from a laser, for example, which could be used to treat cancers. It could also be used to transport molecules that don’t dissolve well in water (or biological fluids) to help get them to target cells.

In 2020, a study by researchers from the CNRS and the University of Strasbourg looked at possible ways graphene could be used in the fight against Covid-19.

Could graphene be toxic to humans?

In May 2021, the French Health Ministry recalled 17 million FFP2 masks, intended for healthcare workers, because they were said to contain graphene, calling it a “potentially dangerous element.”

While this incident may appear to weigh skeptics of the material, there are actually no conclusive reports on the toxicity of graphene and graphene oxide, according to several researchers, including Maurizio Prato, who is head of health and environment on a project. . called Graphene Flagship, funded by the European Union, which coordinates research in this area.

There are several groups of scientists studying the effects of graphene and graphene oxide on human health and the environment. So far, we haven’t found any really bad effects, but more research is needed.

Emmanuel Flahaut says that it can be difficult to compare different studies and that they don’t always reach the same conclusions, however there are a few things that are quite certain:

Graphene is not dangerous, unless you breathe it in as a powder. That’s not really a problem for people who use the material, but it could affect people who work in places where graphene is incorporated into different commercial products.

Graphene oxide is much more concerning, because our work with several different laboratories shows that it is often genotoxic, meaning that it can damage genetic information within a cell and cause mutations that can lead to cancer. However, we have shown that it is possible to use a chemical treatment to eliminate this risk.

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