Graphene is a two-dimensional allotropic form of carbon, in which hexagonal crystal lattice atoms are combined, forming a layer of one atom thickness. Graphene was discovered in 2004 by Andrew Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, immigrated to the Netherlands and the UK, respectively.
Outstanding strength, flexibility and conductivity
The unusual properties of graphene promise a bright future for a good number of industries. Graphene boasts incredibly high strength. A one square meter sheet of graphene (again, keep in mind only one atom thickness) is capable of holding the weight of 4 pounds with no damage or even deformation. Due to the two-dimensional structure, graphene is a very flexible material that should enable its use in future, for example, for weaving yarns (the thin graphene material would be comparable to thick and heavy steel ropes). Furthermore, in certain circumstances, graphene is even capable of healing the deformations in its crystalline structure.
Graphene is a material with a sky-high conductivity of electricity and heat, which should make it the best choice for use in various electronic devices, especially, taking into account its flexibility and optical transparency. A number of experiments have been conducted on solar batteries made from grephene as a substitute to a relatively expensive indium selenide. Thus graphene solar cells demonstrate higher efficiency.
Another possible application of graphene is creation of flexible electronics, and in particular, flexible displays. In contemporary screens (LCD or OLED) indium tin oxide is used as a transparent conductor, which is relatively expensive and fragile. In this sense, high strength and flexibility of graphene make it an ideal candidate for a substitution. A widespread graphene use may certainly give a mind-blowing boost to the wearable electronics, as it allows embedding chips in clothing, paper and other goods of daily use.
Some graphene companies, e.g. 2-DTECH already assist businesses with integrating innovative solutions that imply using the neoteric material. According to 2-DTECH, the number of graphene uses even today is countless, the company is convinced the material will revolutionise the world in the nearest two decades.
Graphene is also regarded as a promising material for field-effect transistors, which opens up opportunities for the miniaturization of electronics. For example, it is now argued that the famous ‘Moore’s Law’ will soon exhaust itself, as a classic silicon transistor cannot be reduced indefinitely. At the same time, graphene-based transistors can be produced of extremely small size without loss of useful properties. IBM has already announced the creation of integrated circuits based on graphene transistors, which are also capable of operating smoothly at temperatures up to 128 degrees Celsius.
Graphene film has proven itself as an excellent water filter as it lets the water molecules pass through itself, thoroughly filtering the residues. Maybe in the future it will help in reducing the cost of seawater desalination. A few months ago, Lockheed Martin unveiled a graphene water filter called Perforene, which, according to the manufacturer, provides a 99% reduction in energy consumption for desalination.
The seriousness of the interest around graphene is confirmed by the fact that the charitable Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in the past year provided a grant of $100 thousand dollars for the development of new composite elastic materials for condoms, including the type of nanomaterials such as graphene.