Article by Raine Blunk
Graphene. It sounds like the name of a fancy pencil, and as far from the truth as that is, it’s also pretty close. According to Graphenea, Graphene producers and distributors, it’s a material made of a one-atom thick layer of carbon bonded in a honeycomb lattice. Sounds simple enough, but it’s been hailed as the revolutionary material of the very near future by industry professionals and scientists alike.
This “miracle material” (as hailed by CNN in an October 2013 article) was discovered just ten years ago by two scientists who used Scotch tape to isolate thin layers of graphite. While they’d originally used the tape to clean the lab of loose graphite, they quickly realized that their leftover tape could hold the secret to a variety of advancements in nanotech.
Apparently we’ve come a long way since the original discovery of graphene in 2004. Just yesterday, a team of Irish scientists discovered they could produce graphene using household items like a blender and dish soap in their search for an easier way to produce large quantities of the carbon-based material.
Although making graphene at home isn’t suggested, we should be seeing the material in our products soon. The National Science Foundation explains that graphene, because it is “strong, light, nearly transparent and an excellent conductor of electricity and heat,” is the perfect material for increased “thermal cycle stability.” So what exactly does that mean for us? Battery operated devices with longer lives and stronger charges, UV-sensing contact lenses, super fast uploads, and even less nuclear waste in the atmosphere, just to name a few of the ways we could be using graphene soon.
Graphene is also being tested by companies like Samsung as an added layer to their silicon wafers for the future of flexible computers (like in their Galaxy watch). But one thing might prevent the use of graphene on a large scale in the technology industry: legacy materials.
The copper and aluminum parts currently used in commercial devices can’t withstand the same temperatures that graphene can, which means it might be years before graphene is used on a wide scale.
Even with some trouble in the widespread application of graphene, scientists and critics are optimistic that the material will be a game changer in the ways we manufacture tech products. So here’s to the future of graphene: one with hiccups along the way that can (hopefully) be solved with something as simple as a piece of Scotch tape.
(Short video produced by the European Graphene-Flagship Initiative)