A little like prospectors heading west during America’s gold rush, there’s a flurry of scrambling and excitement around the ‘miracle material’ graphene and getting the most from it.
As a quick intro, graphene is pure carbon in the form of a very thin, nearly transparent sheet, one atom thick. It is remarkably strong for its very low weight (100 times stronger than steel) and it conducts heat and electricity with great efficiency.
The UK, home of graphene, has received investments totalling over £125 million in the last few years to research and develop the innovative material. This funding is likely to increase further as more is understood about its capabilities, properties, potential uses and applications.
It seems as though these discoveries will happen quickly, with patents on applications for graphene rapidly being taken up. With some early progress being made in the production of composites, graphene is definitely going to be something to watch out in the engineering sector for in the near future.
Some facts about graphene:
- Three million sheets of graphene on top of each other would be 1mm thick.
- The band structure of graphite was first theorised and calculated by PR Wallace in 1947, though for it to exist in the real world was thought impossible.
- Due to the timing of this discovery, some conspiracy theorists have linked it to materials at the Roswell “crash site”.
- It is a good thermal and electric conductor and can be used to develop semiconductor circuits and computer parts. Experiments have shown it to be incredibly strong.
(Source: BBC News, 2011)