Graphene – a turning point or just a ‘wonder material’?
Graphene is said to be the great hope and the future of technological industry. There are less and less people in Poland who have never heard of it yet. It is because graphene is also a chance for the country, as Polish scientists formulated a cheap way of producing it. Due to its recent price (about 100 mln $ for 1 cm2) some time ago, it was claimed to be the most expensive material on Earth.
Why is there so much fuss about it?
First of all, let the graphene be explained more precisely. It is a structure composed of two atoms of carbon and resembles honeycomb. Because of its one-atomic thickness, it has got two-dimensional structure. In order to illustrate it more vividly, graphene is one million times thinner than paper. Not only is graphene exciting from the scientific point of view, but it might become extremely valuable for the community. Scientists from all over the globe struggle to be the first to patent it due to its financial potential and a variety of extraordinary qualities.
Why is graphene so special?
According to Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov, scientists who produced a single layer of carbon atoms and received the Nobel Prize in physics in 2010 for their work, graphene has got bizarre physical properties. While moving through graphene incredibly fast, electrons begin to exhibit behaviors as if they were massless, mimicking the physics at super small scales. Graphene’s special properties don’t limit to physics. Its multiple advantages consist of:
- Flexibility – bendable and stretchable due to strong bonds between carbon atoms. This property can be used in an electronic industry. It is believed that one major company has already created a new, extremely durable mobile phone case using graphene. This leads to the next unusual property, which is:
- Strenght – as it has been already stated, graphene is very durable. Even if you covered a cup with one layer of graphene, you wouldn’t be able to stick a needle inside out.
- Condution – it conducts electricity and heat. Graphene is believed to replace silicon in the near future as it moves electrons 200 times faster. Imagine that the full loading time of your smartphone’s battery is 5 seconds!
As it is often the case with scientific discoveries, there are a number of problems concerning this special material. The high price of production has, until recently, been the major one. Secondly, graphene structures have been created for a short period of time, so we can expect that the biggest boost on the market is yet to come. Last but not least, graphene is a novelty – some companies still don’t know what to think about it. According to IBM, it will never replace silicon in the field of digital processing as graphene transistor cannot move on to the mode, in which it can be completely disconnected. In other words – it can’t switch the flow of electricity off.
Despite those problems and doubts, the graphene revolution is on and even the biggest sceptics must admit it. Taking into consideration its rare properties and financial potential, it seems to become the most attractive material technological industry can offer. Because nowadays the research is moving at a very fast pace, it should be clear quite soon if graphene becomes omnipresent or just another useless idea that cannot be implemented.
Photo credit: CC via JamesHedberg.com