5 July 2019Blog
1 million times thinner than human hair… Graphene! I’ve always wanted to start an article with that very sentence.
As a species, we’re constantly discovering the wonders of this planet. Once we make that discovery, we see how we can apply it. Today’s article will focus on a recently discovered material that is sure to positively affect our way of life. Graphene!
But what is it?
Scientifically speaking, it’s an allotrop of carbon in the form of a two-dimensional, hexagonal lattice in which one atom forms each vertex. Huh? Let me put it into terms that we can all understand. It’s a material that will revolutionize everything about our world.
It all started in 2004 when two professors named Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov, working out of the University of Manchester, found a way to effectively extract graphene from graphite. They were playing with flakes of carbon graphite, while studying its electrical properties, and decided to see if they could make the flakes thinner with the help of scotch tape. Layer by layer, they peeled away until there were only a few atoms thick. Ultimately, to one atom thick. You’re familiar with graphite right? It’s the material inside your pencil. Graphite is a common nonmetal that is a good conductor of electricity. Lithium-Ion batteries have graphite anode in them for example, but we’ll expand on that further down the article.
What’s so great about it?
Here is the best part. I’ll just list a bunch of facts that summarize the importance and value of this newly discovered material. For one, it’s the strongest material that we’ve ever discovered. How strong? How about 200 times stronger than steel, does that put things into perspective? That’s stronger than diamonds. Additionally, it is an incredible conductor of heat and electricity. The current density of graphene is many million times better than that of our current favorite conductor, copper. The properties of graphane almost sound like they were made for comic book purposes. These are exciting times my friends.
Do I have your attention now? Good, check this out.
There will be numerous ways in which graphene will be used further down the line, I’ve compiled a list just for you!
- If you have a heart, you’ll like this. Does drinkable ocean water sound good to you? It does? Good, because that’s the plan. In 2018, Scientists made seawater drinkable after just a single use of a particular form of graphane called “Graphair”. This technology can make any water drinkable, that’s right ANY, no matter how dirty it is. What does this mean? Millions of lives saved.
- Graphene can assist in detecting cancerous cells in the body. Researchers from the University of Texas have invented a temporary tattoo that can keep track of a persons vitals.
- Glowing wallpaper. This could make the light bulb, obsolete. This graphane based wallpaper will provide pleasant and adjustable lighting.
- A world without rust. One coating of graphene based paint will basically prevent erosion
- Recharging gadgets. New batteries will be able to charge your mobile phones in 15 minutes and charged thousands of times, a longer life expectancy. This goes for electric cars as well.
- Running shoes. Rubber soles made with the addition of graphene, much stronger and stretchier. What does this mean? Your items will last a lot longer.
And this is just a general overview of what is to come should we invest more into this great new discovery. I for one am looking forward to the wallpaper. Disco night at my house, coming soon, always.
When will we see it in our homes and beyond?
This is the tricky part. You see, as of right now it is rather expensive to extract graphene from graphite. The good news is, it’s getting cheaper and cheaper. To put things into perspective, it used to cost $1000 to produce enough graphene to cover the head of a pin. In 2015, you can now purchase 10g of the extraordinary material for that same price. Once it becomes affordable enough to mass produce, it’ll be everywhere.
But there’s more! The European Union has devoted over $1.3 billion to research that’s supposed to last until 2023. The intention is to find out how graphene can alter principles of electronics, health, construction and our energy sectors.
Ok graphane, I think I like you
Although we don’t entirely know exactly when we’ll be substituting graphane for basically everything, we’re headed in the right direction. Efforts are being made to educate the public on its usefulness and production is becoming more and more affordable. This is an exciting time for science and only time will tell what impact this glorious material will have on our future. Now get out there and start spreading the word, this is a discovery that’s going to directly affect your life very soon and most certainly your children’s lives as well.