Graphene – a revolutionary material
In 2010, two researchers at the University of Manchester became Nobel laureates discovery of a “miracle material” graphene, the thinnest of all materials in the universe. Since the identification of this material until today, scientists from different fields have found many uses of this versatile material that has the potential to transform our lives in the coming decades.
What is graphene?
Graphene is composed of carbon, as diamond and coal. Unlike these materials, carbon atoms forming graphene are placed in “strips” two dimensional, making the material extremely resistant and also flexible.
Graphene is the thinnest material identified so far – a “sheet” of graphene is only one atom thick, which is why scientists say it is the first 2D material identified by mankind. Graphene is a better electrical conductor than copper, while being 300 times stronger than steel and with unique optical properties. Also, although it is almost transparent, graphene is so dense that even helium, the smallest gas atom, can pass through it.
Andre Geim method and Kostya Novoselov who have obtained graphene is extremely simple: two researchers from the University of Manchester have tape applied over a piece of graphite, detaching from it by peeling tape graphite flakes. Using other pieces of tape, they cut out layers of graphite, thinning flakes. Then, the tape was dissolved in acetone, and the resulting graphite layer bonded to a silicon wafer. Some flakes, measuring just one atom thick, were attached to the silicon wafer.
Graphite is best known as the material is mine pencil factory, which consists of carbon layers stacked. Researchers estimate that a millimeter of graphite consists of about three million layers of graphene. Pencils produce a black streak when writing them as friction leads to detachment of graphite flakes. Therefore, Professor Geim says it is likely that everyone who ever wrote with a pencil to be produced graphene, but without noticing the result.
How graphene could be used?
“Superior properties of graphene justifies nickname ‘miracle material’,” Kostya Novoselov believes teacher who first isolated this material in 2004 with Andre Geim, University of Manchester.
Extraordinary features of graphene make it possible to use in many areas. Professor Geim believes that it is impossible to identify the most promising change that can cause. “The range of possible applications is so vast and is growing at such a rate as to focus on one would be to underestimate the extent of ongoing scientific effort,” said Nobel laureate.
In electronics, graphene could be used to produce ultrafast transistors, flexible displays and LEDs. Material could enhance the effectiveness of laser and photodetector and could transform energy production and storage, helping to change many devices such as batteries and solar cells. Also, the use of graphene in composite materials allow better airplane wing structure, which would reduce their weight. In medicine, graphene could be used for the design of artificial tissues and hold to transport drugs to tissue needs them.
“The screens of the touch screen as the conductive element that graphene can be printed on very thin plastic instead of glass, so that it is light and flexible. Mobile phones could be as thin as a sheet of paper is so easy to doubt that it would enter into any pocket. Due to the extraordinary strength of graphene, these phones would be very hard to break, “explains specialists American Chemical Society.
The graphene may allow the design of lighter and flexible solar panels, which may cover all the outer surfaces of a building, not only the roof. Graphene absorbs only 2% of the light that reaches it, regardless of the wavelength. It is also a very good electrical conductor. Thus, if a photovoltaic cell is placed between two layers of graphene, the light would reach transit graphene and photovoltaic cell. This would generate electricity, which would be transported using graphene layers. The combination would allow the creation of flexible solar panels that can be used in many ways: in cars, clothes, bags, electronic devices or any other surface touched by light. So, thanks to graphene, solar energy could become much easier to use and more widespread than we might imagine today.
Medicine is another field that promises to be converted graphene. Because the material is thin, flexible and resistant to salt solutions forming living tissue, graphene is an ideal material for designing bionic devices. Unlike metallic elements that resist the human body a few years, graphene devices can be used throughout life. Also, because graphene is electrically conductive, it could be used to transmit electrical impulses to neurons, allowing paralyzed people to regain control of the limb after an accident resulting in spinal cord injury. The same mechanism could be used to allow controlling artificial limbs using graphene to transmit electrical signals to the engines they put them in motion.