If you haven’t already heard of graphene you soon will do. Graphene is a form of carbon, one-atom thick in structure, with an octagonal, or honeycomb, appearance. Independent testing has shown it to be one of the strongest materials known with a breaking strength 200 times greater than steel. It has been described as the ‘thinnest and lightest material there is,’ and could pave the way for a whole new generation of smaller, better, faster electronics.
What the over-excitable are already calling a ‘miracle material’ is by no means new. What is new though is it’s recent growth in availability and declining price tag. In 2008 a sample that could be placed at the cross section of a human hair cost more than a thousand dollars. Now, methods of collecting graphene have developed to the point where it can be sold in large quantities.
It may come as no surprise to those familiar with computer components and lithium batteries, that the nation currently producing the cheapest graphene is South Korea. Korean researchers have used graphene in a range of applications that include; car batteries that absorb a full charge in a matter of minutes, stretchable transistors and even a working touchscreen panel.
IBM is rapidly producing faster and faster graphene transistors, recently demonstrating a 155GHz model. It outperformed IBM’s previous record which produced a cut-off frequency of 100GHz. The company has also made integrated circuits from graphene smaller than a grain of salt.
The Internet could benefit immensely from graphene by having connection speeds ten-times faster than at present, thanks to researchers at UC Berkeley, who created tiny, one-atom-thick modulators that can switch the data-carrying light on and off in a fiber-optic connection much faster than current technology.
At Vanderbilt University, Tennessee, graphene has been made into super hydrophobic and hydrophilic sheets. These sheets manipulate water droplets and can be used to manufacture windshields that don’t require wipers, clothes that cause stains to simply bounce off, and lenses that never fog.
Researchers at Cambridge University have printed CMOS transistors using graphene to make a polymer ink, which is then run through a conventional inkjet printer, like those found in most homes. One group printed a set of fully working speakers on to a piece of A4 paper.
This technology is seen as a step towards one-day producing wearable technology in the comfort of your own home.