In conjunction with the fourth economic revolution based on knowledge, there have been many exciting developments in materials science, perhaps the most prominent of which involves both the excitement and enthusiasm for graphene. This material is pure carbon in the form of a single sheet of one atom thickness. Its power is estimated to be 200 times stronger than steel; it has rubber elasticity; it delivers both heat and electricity very effectively. Moreover, because it is only one atom thick, it is almost two-dimensional, immersed within many interesting materials related to light ‘energy’ and water.
Graphene was theoretically found in 1962, when the chemist Hans-Peter Baum described it in a paper published in the journal Inorganic Chemistry and General Chemistry, but in 2003, Russian physicist Andrei Geim began producing it, and in 2004, Geim and fellow researcher Kostantin Novoselov published an academic paper on the discovery, which has since become one of the most widely cited papers in physics, and for this achievement, Geim and Novosilov received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2010.
Speaking of the future of graphene, it can be said to be involved in the manufacture and the future of a range of applications, and it seems from the enthusiasm of companies, academies and researchers, that current and potential graphene applications are staggering, and could revolutionize many products, markets, and fields. These applications include medicines through the development of bioelectric sensors and strong and more effective disinfectants, DNA sequencing, and artificial implants, which may be linked directly to the nervous system, and harnessing the characteristics of graphene conductors is also being explored. It can also be used to produce more effective surgical equipment for the spine, and in computing, graphene can be used to radically improve the processing power of computer chips. IBM announced in January of 2014, that it had manufactured a graphene chip that is 10,000 times faster than standard chips, and in the electronics world, graphene’s potential can be described as transparent and flexible enough to replace silicon in shared circuits, and this capability allows it to completely transform the path of electronics. Scientists have been experimenting with fast charging batteries, high-quality headphones, flexible electronics, more capable image sensors, and almost impenetrable touchscreens, and it can be argued that integrating graphene into photoelectronics will eventually lead to the development of updateable electronic paper, and other stunningly new scientific discoveries.
In water purification, graphene is a water filter that is practically unmatched by anything else. It is perhaps the most effective water filtration material, and a water filter company confirms that it will reduce the energy costs of desalination plants by 99%.
In the field of waterproofing materials, it can be said that with the same capacity as graphene in water filtering, it has a tremendous commercial capacity in materials that can work in water, both in electronics and buildings, and Nokia is developing a smartphone with graphene that makes it work in water.
In energy storage, it can be said that graphene has the ability to deliver heat and electricity very effectively and develop smaller and more extensive battery charging, for example, with smartphone batteries and laptops.
Another application is in the more efficient production of photovoltaic cells, so they can be used in clothing to generate energy while worn, along with solar energy in developing countries and by the army to generate power in the field as well.
Other applications are currently exploring the inclusion of graphene in them, such as in paint, plastic, and polymer production.
Graphene-based paint, applied to a device or home, for example, can also store solar energy, through which a set of devices can be operated via the Internet of Things and all devices can be operated at home.
The power and lightness of graphene both contribute to the production and lightness of goods and spare parts that usually use plastics and polymers, such as in cars or for aircraft parts, and by integrating them, it can contribute to the manufacture of everything from bicycles to wind turbines in a few short years. Graphene is still a relatively new material, and many companies are racing to adopt it, including, but not limited to, big-name electronics brands such as Samsung, Nokia, Google, Sandisk and Apple, all looking for ways to integrate graphene into their products.
The biggest challenge for the commercial use of graphene appears to be the cost of production. Because it is expensive, the cost of graphene will be similarly high, and another major challenge is the fact that graphene is a good conductor that cannot be stopped, lacking what is known as the band gap, which means that it cannot be adopted in electrical systems; recent research, however, has seen promising developments addressing this problem.
Yet, most experts agree that for sure the demand for graphene will grow further and further, mainly due to the huge research and development expenditures of large companies such as Samsung, as well as the special features of graphene, and in 2013 the EU announced plans to finance graphene research that drives innovation and job growth over the next decade will reach €1 billion. And to talk the rest.
Author : Manahel Thabet
Published February 26, 2018
Al Bayan Newspaper