Graphene is the strongest material known to man at 200 times stronger than steel. It is the thinnest possible material feasible, and scientists have said that it almost conducts electricity too well to be used in computers. If you had a saran-wrap thin piece of graphene, an elephant standing on a pencil might not be able to break it. Graphene has the properties to revolutionize electronics and countless other aspects of the world. It may very well change our lives forever.
Graphene was first discovered in 2004, but it’s been right under our nose forever. It was gathered by Nobel Prize winning scientists by using a sticky tape to extract graphene from a graphite stack (that’s right, the same material used in pencils). It is revered for its simplicity: it is made up of a one atom thick layer of carbon. To put that in perspective, it would take three million pieces of graphene layered together to reach one millimeter in thickness.
Graphene is one of the rare materials on Earth that is both transparent and can conduct electricity. It can carry more electricity, more efficiently and with more precision than any other material. It conducts heat better than anything before it. It is impervius to extreme environments, both cold and hot, and is unaffected by radiation. It could replace rare and expensive metals such as platinum and copper in many common electronics.
Graphene absorbs a mere 2.3% of the light that hits it, but when you lay it on a sheet of paper, you can see it, baffling Ivy League minds. It is a crystal structure, but can stretch like rubber, up to a quarter percent of it’s length! That is unheard of in similar materials. As if that wasn’t enough, it’s impermeable (nearly impenetrable), and is one million times more dense than copper!
Similar in length to it’s list of accolades is it’s list of possible uses. Scientists speculate that there is nary a single area of life that it could not improve. One possibility is lighter aircrafts that would improve fuel efficiency and have a significantly positive green impact on the Earth. Graphene could perform admirably under the harshest conditions of space due to it’s strength, resiliency, and performance under extreme conditions.
Due to it’s conductivity, it’s ability to store information is also unparalleled. Memory for every type of electronic could significantly improve. It’s flexibility could be used to create wearable electronics, capable of charging e-devices on the go. The size of computers and electronics could decrease unimaginably. If graphene is mastered, flexible electronics could be possible. That would mean TV’s, phones, and tablets as thin as wall paper. You could roll them up like paper and put them away when not in use. Everyone knows the perils of a dead computer or cell phone. With graphene, energy storage would be astronomical and could lead to higher capacity batteries.
It has been said that graphene could replace silicon as the primary ingredient for computer chips. This has been disputed due to the fact that it conducts electricity so well that there is no way to stop the flow yet. Similarly, most new materials such as carbon fiber can often take 20 years before they can be used commercially.
Graphene was initially difficult to make in large quantities, but that has changed in the last few years. A flexible touch screen was actually made in 2010. Thousands of scientists have begun dedicating time, money and brainpower to it. Hundreds of patents have been taken out on gadgets implementing it. Global electronics giant Samsung is working on getting it in their phones and tablets as soon as possible. Whatever the potential is, graphene is here to stay.
Talking about graphene makes you feel like youre talking about the most interesting man in the world from the Dos Equis commercials. It’s so new in the grand scheme of things that new developments are happening all the time. We’re only just scratching the surface on the potential. What are your thoughts on the topic? Can you think of any other uses for the super material of the 21st century?
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