With its discovery in 2003, or more accurately its ascent into usage and practical application, Graphene has opened up the world to staggering new developments across nearly every arena of research. Measuring a mere atom thick, it is the thinnest, lightest, strongest and most flexible material known to man. The areas of research and development of this “wonder material” have opened new insights into the areas of research and development for nanotechnology, quantum physics, solar cells, super chargers and a literal infinite list of others. Right now, the possibilities are truly endless and the list of possibilities to explore and apply Graphene into our world of tomorrow are limited only by the ability to imagine.
To have a deeper understanding of Graphene and its wide spread uses and applications, an understanding of this material needs to be established. Graphene does conform to the requirements of an element as well as a material. For continuity, it will be referred to simply as a material moving forward. Graphene is a monolayer of carbon atoms, tightly bound in a hexagonal honeycomb lattice. Graphene is one of the three known allotropes of carbon, the other two being graphite and diamond. An allotrope is one of two or more existing forms of an element. Here is where the journey of understanding reaches its first point of interest. As previously stated, Graphene is an allotrope of carbon, as are graphite and diamond. When graphene is stacked layer upon layer until it reaches a measurable density, it then becomes graphite.
One of graphene’s most striking features is that it is the first and currently only 2 dimensional material known to man and is 1 million times thinner than the diameter of a single human hair. One square meter of the element has a shockingly light weight of 0.77 milligrams, yet it has a tensile strength between 100-300 times greater than steel! It is also the greatest conductor of heat and electricity known at this time.
To begin talking about Graphene in areas of production and betterment, it becomes important to understand that Graphene is what can be referred to as a disruptive technology. Simply stated, it has the ability not only to open up new markets of products, but also replace and make obsolete existing products and materials. One important example is Kevlar. Given Graphenes superior strength, it is currently being developed as a potential replacement for Kevlar as it pertains to the manufacturing of protective clothing. Only when Graphene is used to improve and replace existing products, markets, and standards, can its full potential benefit for mankind be realized.
To summarize even a bare bones list of the myriad accomplishments and projected outcomes of Graphene technology would take many volumes. For each specialized industry, thousands of applications are possible and are now either being researched or have moved on to actual testing. Since it would be impossible to encapsulate all the improvements made possible through the application of graphene, it would be better suited to list a few major industries and the accomplishments that can be made.
- Technology- Graphene can be used as a coating for current touch screens and tablets. It could also lead to the possibility of a tablet that could be rolled up and transported like a newspaper.
- Biomedical- Singular examples are endless, however categorically, advancements would include transport systems, sensors, tissue engineering and improved biological agents.
- Energy- Smartphones that fully charge in seconds, battery powered cars that recharge in minutes and super capacitors that could deliver massive amounts of power with infinitesimal energy use.
- Transportation- Given the inherent properties of Graphene, airplane wings will become lighter, which while increase fuel efficiency and range, but will also suffer less damage for lightning strikes due to its highly conductive nature. There has also been extensive research into coating for car bodies and windows to soften the ravages of time due to element exposure.
- Food- Graphene oxide used for food packing can reduce the rate of food waste while also protecting from illness due to its ability to detect atmospheric changes caused by deteriorating food.
Perhaps this list on its own merits is a bit over simplified. For every category, there are numerous sub categories that illustrate the larger picture and the amazing benefits of injecting Graphene technology into the future development of nearly every product known to man. From research done at Cambridge University comes this stunning thought to be used by way of conclusion-when all the capabilities of Graphene are combined, an age of growth and improvement could take place not seen since the Industrial Revolution. Graphene is the future and with each new day, the future is becoming NOW.