So…what’s the hype? Why is Graphene called a wonder material?

In my last blog post, I explained how easy it is to make make your own Graphene at home. However, you may still wonder: Why should I be interested in that? What is so fantastic about Graphene? Why is there so much research being done on Graphene? And why is Graphene considered a ‘wonder material’? Let me try to give some answers in this article:

 

 “Imagine a coffee cup that streams the news headlines or a cook pot that shows the presence of E.coli bacterial before they make you sick or a TV screen as thin and flexible as piece of paper. All of this can be reality if our wonder material, Graphene, can be produced in high quality and large-scale”

American Chemical Society

 

Graphene is thin, light and flexible. Still it is stronger than diamond, and it is, in fact, one of the strongest materials known (around 200-300 times stronger than steel). It also conducts heat and electricity better than copper. You can make it in a variety of forms. You can wrap it into a ball, roll it into a tube or stack it and make graphite again. All of these excellent properties make Graphene an excellent candidate for many applications.

Graphene is super-thin and it conducts electricity, so it can be suggested as a replacement of fancy and expensive touchscreens. Touchscreens made of Graphene can be printed on a piece of thin plastic instead of glass, so they will be light and flexible. Also, because of Graphenes’ incredible strain, these touch screens are nearly unbreakable. So probably in future you will have your ultra-thin cell phones integrated into a piece of paper.

Graphene oxide framework desalination membrane. Source: Flickr, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Graphene oxide framework desalination membrane. Source: Flickr, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

It is also suggested to use Graphene as a filter for desalination of water. Desalination is a very expensive process and unaffordable in many countries because of the amount of energy required. Graphene filters can be several 100 times thinner than the best available filters, therefore, the energy and pressure required to filter the salt is about hundred times lower.

This link shows research on Graphene filters by Lockheed Martin.

Graphene is nearly transparent to light and it is also highly conductive of electricity. As a result, Graphene can be used in combination with other photovoltaic devices to make solar panels that are thin, flexible and cheap. These light and flexible solar panels can be used to cover the outside of  buildings, be molded to fit the car body or be wrapped around furniture. This can lead to new generation of sun powered and eco-friendly products.

Graphene can also be used as a coolant. Prof. Johan Liu from Chalmers University in Sweden, says: “In a computer, the hottest spots – microprocessors for the most – reach temperatures that range between 55 and 115°C (160 to 240°F). By applying a layer of graphene, we have lowered the average temperature by 13°C (55°F).” it is sufficient to say that by cooling down the temperature of electronic devices one can increase the lifetime of electronic devices and this is a wonderful gain in energy efficiency.

This video shows how Graphene amazing properties and product-enhancing characteristics can commercialize it in near future:

VIDEO: Graphene Science and Applications

These potential applications can make Graphene a truly exciting material, but there is still a long way to go before any of these products become reality. In one of my next posts I will explain the major current challeges in the production of Graphene.

About Sarah Riazimehr

Sarah Riazimehr is pursuing her PhD under the supervision of Prof. Max Lemme in the Department of Elektrotechnische Bauelemente at the RWTH Aachen. Her current research interests focus on understanding the electrical and optical properties of graphene and the other 2D materials for technological applications, in particular 2D based photodetectors.

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