Graphene is an ultra-light, ultra-strong, super conductive, transparent carbon allotrope that resembles a chicken wire lattice at the atomic level, one that makes it impervious to even the tiniest of atoms – helium. Thus, with the right-sized holes poked in it, it can be tailored to filter out specific molecules very effectively.
The problem has always been manufacturing the damn stuff, particularly at any kind of scale, because graphene needs to be grown under very particular conditions. And that's what an MIT team believes it's cracked, using a roll-to-roll approach that's already producing up to 10 m (33 ft) of continuous graphene at a time, at a rate of 5 cm (2 in) per minute.
The process uses chemical vapour deposition, spooling a length of copper foil between two rolls and passing it slowly through two tubes. The first tube heats the foil to an ideal temperature, and in the second, a specific ratio of methane and hydrogen gas is pumped in. When this gas mixture hits the heated foil, graphene begins to form.