Posts tagged ‘graphene’

February 15, 2012

Graphene, the Supermaterial

Its discovering scientists have been awarded with the Nobel prize last year, and two of them have just recently been knighted and every week there seems to be a new study or research published on another amazing feature. But what exactly is this new supermaterial, graphene?

Graphene is basically a one-atom thick, two-dimensional sheet of carbon.

It’s currently the thinnest material discovered and therefore it’s almost transparent. It’s great at conducting electricity, enabling faster, more efficient and more focused electricity and right now it’s the best known heat conductor.

It’s also impermeable, flexible and at the same time the ‘strongest material ever measured‘.

One of the special features of the material is that it lacks the so-called ‘band gap’, a band where electrons can move between the ‘valence’ and ‘conduction bands’. This determines the material’s conductivity, and it’s important for the development of items like transistors or solar cells.

Where can it be used?

With all these great features, graphene seems to have unlimited opportunities.

Being thin and almost transparent, it’s great for touchscreens as well as solar cells.

For solar cells, the missing band gap is also ideal, while in computing this may mean a disadvantage for the transistors. These are used to amplify and switch electronic signals and power, and are found in computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets. The absence of band gap does not allow to switch off currents, but this may be solved by doping, introducing impurities to a pure material. In this way it could also be great for photovoltaic cells.

Thanks to these many characteristics it’s being considered for replacing currently used silicon in transistors. Hence electronic devices may become faster, thinner and also cheaper.

But the number of opportunities goes on.

Being impermeable it could be great for gas detectors, and added graphene could harden tyres for safer driving, as well.

Also, the oil industry is enthusiastic about the material, having recently used graphene oxide against clogging of pores in wells.

There are already many giants undertaking research with graphene, including Samsung, IBM and Nokia, with impressive results, including faster-than-ever transistors or greatly flexible touchscreens.

One of the main questions however is whether these great features will also work at a larger scale so it could be used for mass production.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

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