ULTIMATE GUIDE TO GRAPHENE – EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT GRAPHENE

ULTIMATE GUIDE TO GRAPHENE – EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT GRAPHENE

Learn wonder material, graphene, from its history to applications. Researches on carbon, chemicals, and nanotubes allowed us to obtain graphene. In fact, in our ultimate guide to graphene, we'll shed a light on the matters such as production of graphene, and how a single layer of carbon atoms may be stronger than anything. Continue reading to learn more. 

What is Graphene?

Graphene is a material with an unprecedented hardness, is ten times stronger and six times lighter than steel. It is produced from graphite which we find in the center of pencils, except that Graphene consists of a single layer of carbon atoms. Graphene has a lot of mesmerizing features and applications. It is an excellent conductor of electricity and with Graphene transistors, almost any electronic device would work faster and with lower energy consumption. Researchers have discovered how to build solar panels using Graphene, an advance that could finally make solar energy more economical. But this is just the tip of the iceberg for this material of the future.

After knowing what Graphene is, let’s go deeper and study the history of Graphene.



HISTORY OF GRAPHENE

The 21st century, after the eras of coal and silicon, has been defined as the era of Graphene, considering that graphite, the allotrope of carbon from which Graphene originates, is a poor and abundant material in nature so it can be exploited on an industrial level. The carbon atom is one of the most intriguing elements of the entire periodic table, a brick on which the entire system of organic chemistry is built and above all constitutes the fundamental element of Graphene.

But where does the story begin? Very far away, even from the Middle Ages when graphite was used as a marking tool. In practice, when we rub a graphite sample on a sheet or on another support, very thin layers of material adhere to the support and then remain there. Around 1560, Bernacotti gave the idea of a lead pencil. In 1795, its production on a large scale came into existence. It is logical to think that an object as humble as a pencil may have contributed, in some way, to increase the ability to acquire culture even on the part of the less advantaged social strata that rarely could afford the luxury of buying books.

The history of Graphene is long and peculiar from many points of view, it is curious and partly surprising to see how. Despite the fact that graphite was in our hands for centuries, Graphene was never actually recognized as a material destined to change the entire history of science; this lack of recognition was probably due to the lack of adequate investigation tools. Now we can, with good reason, state that this innovative field of research is the most explored in the world, not only from an experimental point of view but also from a theoretical point of view.

The first work on the band structure of the single graphite plane date back to a period between 1947 and 1958, a time when, however, this material was considered only an academic exercise, because the same researchers believed that it was impossible to obtain strictly two-dimensional system that is simultaneously stable even in the isolated state. Boehm and his colleagues, in 1986, coined the term "graphene" combining the word graphite and a suffix that refers to a particular type of hydrocarbons, i.e. polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. In 1999, the first free graphitewas built and only 5 years later, the history of science changed completely.

In 2004, at the University of Manchester, the scientists Geim and Novoselov, using a graphite sample and a simple adhesive tape discovered the material of the future that is Graphene. From a structural point of view, we can imagine Graphite as a book whose sheets are made of Graphene.

Now, we’ll study how graphene came into existence.

Discovery of Graphene

The discovery of Graphene is quite recent and, perhaps, for this reason, it is a material still unknown to a large number of people. It was first obtained in 2004 when two professors from the University of Manchester (United Kingdom) had the unusual idea of using adhesive tape (the common Scotch tape) to skin a piece of graphite. Thus they created the first Graphene in history.

This new material, considered the "magic material" of the 21st century, is a crystalline allotrope of carbon, a characteristic it shares with diamonds and graphite. All three are made up of carbon atoms joined together in different ways. For example, graphite consists of carbon atoms bonded together in layers of a hexagonal lattice, while Graphene is made up of a single layer of graphite. It might seem like a laboratory curiosity for chemistry enthusiasts. In fact, the potential commercial applications and profit opportunities of Graphene are so great as to overcome even the most fervent imagination. That's why we've put together this brief overview of Graphene, its production, its applications and what it could give us in the future. More than 200 companies and start-ups are involved in research around Graphene. In 2010, it was the subject of nearly 3,000 research papers.

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Read: 60 Uses of Graphene – The Ultimate Guide to Graphene’s (Potential) Applications 

Who Discovered Graphene?

The 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Russian scientists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov (Professors at the University of Manchester) on the discovery of Graphene, a particular form of carbon obtained in the laboratory from graphite, which has applications in almost every field of life. The committee said the two discovered carbon in an extremely thin form, of just one atom. Graphene has exceptional properties, fundamental to quantum physics.

Andre Geim, a Dutch citizen, was born in 1958 in Sochi, Russia, where he graduated in 1987, at the Institute of Solid State Physics in Chernogolovka. He is currently head of the University of Manchester Center for meso-science and nanotechnology. Geim was also the winner in 2000 of IgNobel, the prize awarded to the "most unlikely" research, for having used magnetic fields to levitate a frog, assisted in this task by Sir Michael Berry, of the University of Bristol, known for his research in the quantum field. For "Le Scienze", Andre Geim illustrated his research in an article, written in collaboration with Kim Philip and published in June 2008.

On the other hand, Konstantin Novoselov has dual citizenship, Russian and British. He was born in 1974 in Nizhny Tagil, Russia. He then specialized at Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. He is currently working at the University of Manchester.

Let’s Understand Graphene as a Non-Scientist Human Being

Before talking about graphene’s structure and properties in detail, let's try to understand graphene as a non-scientist.

Graphene is considered one of the great revolutions of the 21st century if we talk about new materials. Graphene is so tough that a cat could swing in a graphene hammock, which would weigh less than one of its whiskers. Also, this would be virtually invisible. Discovered in 2004 by Andrei Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, Graphene has millions of applications to the real world that will arrive in the coming years.

Graphene is about 200 times stronger than steel and 1000 times lighter than a sheet of paper. The enthusiasm for graphene has been totally unexpected and no one imagined that a sheet of this material could be so thin, such a good conductor of electricity, and so resistant. It is even expected that new qualities will be discovered over time.

Graphene is still in the laboratories and there are companies that manufacture and sell graphene. Large companies are already working with this material, as is the case of Toshiba, which would be using it to cover the cables that we found inside their computers.

Graphene has a plethora of applications in our daily lives. It has flexible touch screens, sensors, and fast data transmission devices by optoelectronics. In China, there is a flexible screen prototype made of graphene and the aviation companies Airbus and Boeing are interested in this material to reinforce the structures of their aircraft.

With treatment, you can get it to only transmit electricity in one direction. Moreover, Graphene has really interesting biological applications, such as a graphene structure to grow artificial organs with stem cells.

As we understand the history and basics of Graphene, let’s get into more detail.

Structure of Graphene

The graphene is an allotrope of carbon, that is, a form in which carbon occurs. Other allotropic forms of carbon are graphite or diamond.

Graphene is formed by hexagonal rings of carbon atoms, one of the most important and abundant elements in nature. Each layer of hexagonal graphene ring has a height of approximately one carbon atom and this characteristic, together with the application of very specialized techniques, allows us to obtain extraordinarily thin graphene layers.

The perfect graphene would contain only hexagonal rings although, in reality, pentagonal and heptagonal rings may appear that are considered irregularities and imperfections in the structure of graphene. This structure is the basis of other graphite substances such as fullerenes, carbon nanotubes or graphite itself.

Graphene is the basic elementary unit in 2D to build all the graphite materials of other dimensions. For example, it can be arched in zero-dimensional structures (0D), as is the case with fullerenes, it can be rolled up in 1D structures, giving rise to carbon nanotubes and, finally, it can be stacked successively giving rise to three-dimensional graphite (3D).

According to the IUPAC (International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry), the term graphene should be used when talking about "reactions, structural relationships or other properties of individual layers" of carbon. Taking this into account, it is not correct to describe graphene as "layers of graphite" (graphite implies 3 dimensions while graphene implies carbon bonds in two directions), "carbon sheets" and similar concepts. Thus graphene can be defined as an infinitely alternating polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon of six carbon atoms rings, that is, it a flat molecule composed of carbon atoms that form a pattern of hexagonal rings.

Let’s go deeper and study the peculiar characteristics of Graphene.



FEATURES OF GRAPHENE

The features of Graphene are extraordinary. Graphene is a substance with very interesting characteristics, some amazing. These properties together with the abundance of carbon in nature have made graphene earn the name of "material of the future." Some of the most outstanding features of graphene are high thermal conductivity, high electrical conductivity, high elasticity (deformable), high hardness (resistance to being scratched), and high resistance. Graphene is approximately 200 times stronger than steel, similar to diamond resistance, but is much lighter.

Moreover, Graphene is more flexible than carbon fiber but just as light. The ionizing radiation of Graphene does not affect you. Graphene has a low Joule effect (heating when conducting electrons). For the same task, graphene consumes less electricity than silicon. Graphene is capable of generating electricity by exposure to sunlight. Graphene is a virtually transparent material. Graphene is very dense and does not allow helium to pass in gaseous form, however, if it is allowed to enter the water, which, enclosed in a graphene container, it shows an evaporation rate similar to that shown in an open container.

We can’t stop praising the features of Graphene. Other features still under discussion are the self-cooling capacity described by researchers at the University of Illinois or its ability to self-repair. If a layer of graphene loses some carbon atoms for any reason, the atoms close to the hole left approach and close the hole, this capacity for self-repair could increase the longevity of graphene-manufactured materials, although in a limited way.

But Why Graphene is so Important? What Makes Graphene the Wonder Material? Why Was Graphene so Important to Deserve a Nobel Prize?

Graphene is so important and said to be the "miraculous material" of the 21st century and its properties have astonished science and the media. Most of the applications proposed for graphene are electronics and computer science. Its electronic features can be used for the manufacture of transistors for high-speed electrical circuits and could ultimately replace silicon in microchips and forever change the future of computers and other devices.

Good graphite is not easy to find and its prices have doubled in recent years. A ton of graphite with a purity of 97% costs about 2,000 dollars. A ton of 99.99% ultrapure graphite costs 20,000. Graphene can be used for anything from composite materials such as carbon fiber today, to electronics. The ways in which graphene can be used are as surprising as their properties. Graphene does not have only one application, it is not even a unique material. Graphene is 'a huge variety of materials'.

The benefits of using graphene for businesses and consumers would be obvious, the devices would be faster and cheaper as well as thinner and more flexible. "Theoretically, you could roll up an iPhone and stick it behind your ear like a pencil," Professor James Tour of Rice University told Technology Review magazine.

If graphene is compared with the way plastic is used these days, in the future credit cards could have the same processing power as a current smartphone. "A completely new world of electronic applications can be opened with the transparency, flexibility, and speed of graphene," says Jari Kinaret, Professor of Technology at the Swedish University of Chalmers. In Europe, graphene research will receive an investment of one billion euros from the European Commission in the next 10 years.

The multinational Samsung in collaboration with the Sungkyunkwan University of South Korea is one of the largest investors in graphene research and has developed a 25-inch flexible touch screen with graphene. Companies like IBM are also investigating. IBM has created a 150 gigahertz (GHz) transistor. The fastest comparable silicon device is around 40 GHz. With all the money invested and market expectation, scientists are cautious about how quickly all this potential can come true.

Strength of Graphene

Strength defines how much a material is strong. Graphene is composed of a monoatomic layer of carbon and its strength is outstanding. The ultra-thin two-dimensional structure represents the real strength of Graphene, considered among the most promising and reliable due to its great versatility in numerous technological applications.

Graphene is the material with the highest mechanical strength of all materials known in nature, it is even much stronger than the strongest of steels. This property makes graphene a material that can be very useful in applications where high mechanical strength and low weight are required. The extraordinary strength of graphene gives rise to a lot of applications in different sectors.

Mechanical Resistance of Graphene

The origin of the great mechanical resistance offered by graphene must be found in covalent bonds type σ that is established between the carbon atoms that make up its crystalline network. The main mechanical properties of a material, such as its breaking stress, its rigidity, fragility, resilience or toughness can be deduced from the stress-strain curve obtained from the tensile test of a sample of material.

As is known, this test consists of subjecting a cylindrical specimen of material to a certain mechanical tension (σ) (force per unit area) in the longitudinal direction to its main axis, until its breakage occurs, then measuring the deformation that originates (ε) in the specimen.

The mechanical resistance values in conventional materials (macroscopic) refer to the force necessary for the breaking of a sample of the material with a given section, and therefore, its units are measured in N/m2 (Newton/meter2). But such tests cannot be carried out to determine the mechanical properties of materials that are formed in the form of microscopic membranes, such as Graphene.

Is Graphene the Strongest Material on Earth?

Graphene is the strongest, hardest, and lightest of the materials ever made. In its version with 2 dimensions, graphene is the strongest of materials. However, until now researchers have had difficulty translating this two-dimensional force into a useful three-dimensional material. These two-dimensional materials have exceptional strength and unique electrical properties.

The researchers were able to compress small graphene flakes using a mixture of heat and pressure. This process has produced a very strong and stable structure, whose shape resembles that of some corals. These forms, which have an enormous surface in proportion to their volume, have proven to be extraordinarily strong. Once these 3D structures were created, the researchers then wanted to see how far they were able to push themselves by designing the strongest material that could be produced. To do this, they created a variety of 3D models and subjected them to various tests. One of the samples showed 5% of the density of the steel and 10 times its strength.

The new results show that robustness is not only a characteristic of two-dimensional materials similar to graphene but also depends on the geometric structure. This suggests that other materials, strong and light like graphene, could be made more resistant with a three-dimensional structure.

How Strong is Graphene Compared to Other Materials? Let’s see:

When talking about the strongest materials, we can find many competitors of Graphene. Let’s discuss the top ten strongest materials in the world.

Diamond is a ceramic material of natural origin made of carbon atoms tightly bonded together in a network. Diamonds are almost impossible to scratch.

On the other hand, Spider Silk has a very high tensile strength. A silk thread can withstand more pull before breaking than steel.

When talking about Carbon, there are many different types of carbon composite materials but they all exhibit great strength properties. They can resist an immense amount of tension and absorb a great deal of force before breaking.

Osmium is another metal which is the strongest element of the platinum family. When it is isolated, osmium is a very hard and extremely dense silver metal.

Moving on, martensitic steels have strength and resistance superior to normal steel but without losing the malleability. Moreover, metallic crystal has a chemical structure that counteracts the inherent fragility of glass but maintains its resistance. It is not very dense and is lighter than steel.

Wurtzite Boron Nitride is very similar to a diamond on a structural level, but 18% harder. While diamonds are produced from carbon under pressure, Wurtzite Boron Nitride (WBN) is born from the heat and pressure produced during volcanic eruptions.

The next strongest element is Lonsdaleíta. With this difficult name, it is known what is possibly the hardest material of natural origin. It is similar to diamond, but 58% harder. Sometimes it forms when meteorites that contain graphite hit the Earth.

In the end, the king of the strongest materials is Graphene. Graphene consists of a single atomic layer of carbon, organized in a honeycomb structure. In its perfect crystalline form, graphene is the strongest material ever measured.

The Conductivity of Graphene

Conductivity can be defined as the quality of being able to transfer sound, electric charge or heat. It can also be defined in terms of density, electron mobility, temperature, and other important parameters.

Electrical conductivity refers to charging mobility in an electric field, which increases as the temperature drops. Graphene is a very good conductor of heat and electricity. Observing the unusual movement of electrons in graphene, researchers at the University of Manchester have discovered a new understanding of the conductivity physics of materials.

The experiments performed have provided an essential understanding of the peculiar behavior of the flow of electrons in graphene, discovering a set of properties that must be taken into account for the design of future nanoelectronics circuits.

Graphene is widely a better conductor than copper, thanks in large part to its two-dimensional structure. In most metals, conductivity is limited by crystalline imperfections, which cause electrons to disperse like billiard balls when they move through the material.

The Electrical Conductivity of Graphene

Graphene is a very good electrical conductor. The electricity is able to flow at a great pace through the honeycomb structure of Graphene. It has the ability to develop superfast miniaturized transistors.

How is the electrical conductivity of Graphene different from metals? We have already said that metals have only one energy band, that of conduction. Graphene, as a relativistic system, has two bands, one of the particles, electrons, and another of antiparticles, holes. Graphene differs from ordinary semiconductors. That is why it is a hybrid between metal and semiconductor, and hence its properties derive.

Graphene electrons have a speed 100 times less than that of light, but 70 times faster than silicon electrons. It is an unconventional material where electrons and holes move as if they had zero mass. Graphene has high thermal and electric conductivity. Ohmic resistance lower than that of silver: 6-10 ohms/cm. At room temperature, only one-millionth of an ohm. High elasticity and hardness.

Heat Conductivity of Graphene

Another property where graphene stands out is that it has an extraordinary heat conductivity. This fact allows graphene to be very useful in those applications where a material that conducts heat is required. And it must be said that graphene, as a conductor of heat, is better than any other known material.

The values of the thermal conductivity at room temperature of graphene and its comparison with that of copper, which is an excellent conductor of heat, are attached below.

Graphene thermal conductivity: 5,000 W/mK

Copper thermal conductivity: 400 W/mK

Again, the explanation of why graphene is such a good conductor of heat must be sought in its internal structure. This high thermal conductivity of graphene, its structure in the form of two-dimensional sheets with very low thickness and weight, and its good ability to integrate with silicon make graphene a material widely used in the manufacture of electronic devices.

In fact, graphene is being used extensively as a material that serves to evacuate heat in electronic devices, it is also being applied for the manufacturing of heatsinks, as well as material that combined with other materials give rise to new compounds with a large Thermal conductivity.

Weight of Graphene

The main properties of Graphene reside in the stable and orderly arrangement of the carbon atoms due to the high bonding forces existing between them. The molecular model of the crystal lattice is composed of hexagonal cells; at the same time, the bonds are so flexible that they can stretch up to 20% of their original size. These are features that allow the material to be about 1000 times lighter than a sheet of paper per unit area.

How much is the weight of Graphene?

Despite being thin and light, graphene is an extremely strong material, being the hardest element ever known, surpassing even the diamond. To give you an idea, a 1 square meter sheet of graphene weighs only 0.0077 grams but can support a weight of up to 4 kg.

It is a material that allows its use to create much lighter screens. If we join it with its other properties, such as flexibility, one of its applications would be the creation of folding or rolling screens.

Graphene Compared to Other Materials

Graphene vs. Diamond

Diamond consists of pure crystallized carbon and it is very hard. It has an index of 10 on the scale of Mohs hardness (the scale ranges from 1 - 10). The diamond word etymologically means unchanged, which is not new given its very high hardness. While talking about its physical properties, they are among the best of all the stones used to make jewelry.

Structure of Diamond

Diamond consists of carbon, it is the precious stone whose composition is the simplest, other precious stones are all complicated. The diamond sometimes has traces of nitrogen that can go up to 0.20% and a very small proportion of other elements. The diamond crystal would have formed by repetition and stacking in the 3 directions of the space of carbon atoms that could be compared with cubic tetrahedra whose center would concentrate the mass of the atom and in which the 4 vertices would have an electron. Each atom is linked, hooked to others by very strong and very short bonds.

These bonds are covalent, and each center of these atoms is distanced from its neighbor only by a distance of the order of 1.54 angstrom, that is, 0.000.000.154 mm. Since the atomic bonds of the diamond are very short, this partly explains its great hardness.

What is stronger than a diamond? Graphene, which is also composed of carbon, is a soft mineral. Unlike the diamond, their atoms are quite far from each other. If you compare these two minerals (diamond and graphene), which are both carbon compounds, the result is surprising: one (the graphene) is stronger as compared to a diamond and it is 200 times stronger than steel.

Is graphene stronger than a diamond? From the above explanation, we can say that Graphene is stronger than diamond.

Now, let’s compare Graphene with Graphite.

Graphene vs Graphite

Graphene is one of the finest materials in the world, it has only two dimensions and has a thickness of a single atom. It is a layer of graphite, discovered thanks to the pencil lead and scotch rolls. The ductility, strength, elasticity and conductivity make it suitable for making significant scientific innovations. Graphene derives from graphite, the mine of our pencils: it is a two-dimensional material, consisting of a single layer of carbon atoms, placed at the vertices of regular hexagons that follow one another on a planar lattice. It has interesting properties that make it a promising candidate for numerous applications.

On the other hand, graphite is a mineral of elementary class, and its specific composition involves a semi metallic element.

Surely you are interested to know what graphite is made of. The composition consists almost exclusively of carbon atoms, and it is, in fact, one of the allotropic forms in which elemental carbon can be presented, together with diamond, fullerene, and others, such as graphene.

It is the most stable form of carbon in standard conditions (or at low pressures and temperatures), so it is used in thermochemistry to define the standard state in which the heat of formation of carbon compounds is measured.

The chemical formula of Graphite is C. It is also polymorph of the chaoïta and the lonsdaleïta. This term has its origin from the Greek γραφειν (graphein) which means to write. The composition of graphite can be considered as the maximum carbon content, being above anthracite, so it can be called meta-anthracite, although it is not normally used as fuel because it is very difficult to ignite it. It is also possible to understand this mineral as a succession of overlapping graphene layers. Thus, we can say that graphene is just a layer of graphite.

Graphene vs Steel

Steel is an alloy (combination or mixture) of iron (Fe) and carbon (C) provided that the percentage of carbon is less than 2%. This percentage of carbon usually varies between 0.05% and 2% maximum. Other materials such as Cr (Chromium), Ni (Nickel) or Mn (Manganese) are sometimes incorporated into the alloy in order to achieve certain properties and are called alloy steels.

On the other hand, graphene is 200 times stronger than steel. Graphene is a layer of graphite, the carbon crystal with which pencil mines are made. Its extraordinary properties were known in the 40s of the 20th century, but it had not been possible to obtain it. It was only in 2004 that scientists from the University of Manchester succeeded. They were able to "peel" graphite layer by layer and separate the graphene. Of course, they won the Nobel Prize. Why? For those extraordinary properties, study Features of Graphene above. And, based on them, new applications are being investigated. For example, clothes with special thermal capacities, a completely new electronics, faster and more efficient than the current one based on silicon, in the automotive and aeronautical industry due to its hardness, generation of living tissue, among many more.

Is Carbyne Stronger than Graphene?

Carbyne is approximately twice as strong as graphene and carbon nanotubes, which until now were the most resistant materials. Researchers at Rice University published a study on the properties of carbyne, material that has proven to be stronger than graphene. It also has remarkable electrical properties.

Nowadays it is manufactured in small quantities, so the manufacturing process would have to be greatly improved to make it viable. Carbyne is a structure that consists of carbon atoms joined in double sequential bonds, or alternated between single and triple bonds.

Like graphene, the structure has a single atom of thickness and has the peculiarity of being very flexible, but not stretchable. The researchers also showed that when the carbyne is bent in an arc or circle, the tension between the atoms can alter the so-called banned band. This property could open the doors to a lot of mechanical and electronic uses.

After comparing Graphene with other components, and knowing about its strength, what graphene can do for our protection?

Can Graphene Stop a Bullet?

Graphene is a paragon of promises. It is known as the material of the future, one of the thinnest, flexible and strongest in the world, which could revolutionize our world with multiple applications in the mobile phone, telecommunications, chip manufacturing or medical equipment industry. But it is also that this wonderful material could become a harder armor than steel and kevlar, capable of resisting a bullet like a real "terminator."

Graphene is characterized by having a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice, it has proven to be the strongest material of the world, measuring the resistance of the sheet being pressed with a diamond tip. But now, the material has proven to be bulletproof, research published in the journal Science.

A team from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst fired tiny spheres of silica in the graphene layers as if it were a micro camping range. The bullets flew at a speed of 6,700 mph, about a third of the speed of a real bullet. The result was shocking. Graphene sheets absorbed the impact twice as well as Kevlar, the most commonly used material in bulletproof vests, and tens of times better than steel.

This opens the door to a new use for graphene. Because it is so thin, light and strong, it could be used to make defensive suits and vests for security forces or military personnel. Now, the key is to achieve that graphene can be manufactured on a large scale without modifying its wonderful characteristics. A good number of companies are chasing it.


USES OF GRAPHENE

It has been known for a long time that graphene is the material of the future. More precisely, since 2010, when the Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded to two Russian researchers, Kostya Novoselov and Andre Geim, who, some years before, had succeeded in isolating the thinnest material in the world with the sole aid of a 2-pound scotch roll. Since then, research projects on the material and its possible applications have multiplied all over the world, involving the EU itself, which has earmarked 1 billion euros in the largest European initiative on the subject, Graphene Flagship.

The properties of graphene make it an ideal material for applications in a variety of sectors. For example, graphene can be used in technology, especially in electronics in the manufacturing of integrated circuits. It is assumed that graphene characteristics can make it possible to build processors much faster than current ones.

This speed has already been put into practice in the manufacture of field-effect transistors built with graphene. These transistors also take advantage of the high mobility of carriers with low noise levels presented by graphene.

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Read: 14 Uses of Graphene that will Improve Our Daily Lives 

Among the potential applications of graphene can be cited as the most interesting:

  • •Distillation of ethanol at room temperature for fuel and human consumption
  • •Ultrasensitive gas detectors
  • •Optical modulators
  • •Solar cells
  • •Graphene transistors
  • •Faster and more efficient integrated circuits
  • •Electrochromic devices
  • •Misalignment
  • •Ultra-fast battery charge
  • •Transparent electrodes
  • •Antibacterial applications
  • •Collection of radioactive waste for easier cleaning
  • •Stronger and better-balanced instruments and sports equipment, such as tennis rackets
  • •Ultra-thin touchscreens that can be glued onto a non-breakable material
  • •Supercapacitors that substantially make batteries obsolete
  • •Faster flash memory
  • •Fast and efficient biosensor devices to measure your blood sugar, cholesterol and possibly your DNA
  • •Graphene-based e-paper that can be updated with new information
  • •Headphones with the phenomenal frequency response
  • •Stronger and lighter aircraft and armor
  • •New waterproof coatings
  • •Bionic devices that can connect directly to the neurons of your body
  • •Folding batteries
  • •Promote tissue regeneration
  • •Purify the saltwater in drinking water

Now let’s discover use cases and applications of graphene in detail:

Composites and Coatings

Graphene is a very thin material, but it has great strength which enhances the mechanical strength of the polymer with high thermal and electrical conductivity such as, 15-50 percent increase in mechanical strength is possible by adding a particular quantity of graphene in nylon 66. When graphene is added in silicone rubber, the tensile strength is enhanced by 2 times for the support component. If graphene is added in nitrile-butadiene rubber, its mechanical properties is enhanced by 1 - 5 times. Also in another normal high polymer like PP, PVC, and resin, the properties of graphene are improved greatly.

Graphene-based Composites and Coatings

The American Graphene 3D Lab has announced the development of a new family of composite materials based on a matrix of crystal polystyrene (HIPS) reinforced with carbon fibers and particles. The products will be marketed under the G6-Impact brand both in the form of a filament for 3D printing and in granules for injection molding. The company produces the materials at its New York facility and is already able to supply limited quantities of application development material.

The performance of these carbon-graphene composites promises to be very high. According to the company, the material offers excellent rigidity combined with extraordinary shock and vibration absorption properties, thanks to both the patent formulation and the production process. The new composites would be suitable for applications requiring high resilience, shock absorption and vibration damping on hard surfaces such as sports equipment, robots, power tool handles car components, drones and parts of airplanes or military equipment.

Graphene in Electronics

Graphene is a material that can revolutionize the composition of electronic devices that we know today. Graphene is so important for every electronic device we use every day.

Thanks to its high electrical and thermal conductivity, Graphene can be widely used in electronics. Transistors, microprocessors and integrated circuits benefit from the mobility of electrons which is particularly high in graphene.

Also for the storage of energy, there may be good developments. The batteries based on graphene, for tablets and other mobile devices, provide performance superior to those current and smaller dimensions because, thanks to its nanometric dimensions, this material can accumulate more energy in smaller spaces.

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Read: Use of Graphene in Electronics

Graphene’s Use in Semiconductors and Chips

Semiconductors developed from graphene can change the technology industry in five years. Researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) have developed - and patented - a hybrid material with very interesting properties. These are gallium arsenide nanotubes (GaAs) developed on graphene, which is a layer of highly alloyed carbon atoms arranged in hexagonal order.

According to Professor Helge Weman of NTNU, "The new hybrid material offers excellent optoelectronic properties". He is also the co-founder of CrayoNanoAs, the company created to commercialize the discovery.

The growth of nanowires on graphene occurs with a method called MBE (Molecular Beam Epitaxy). It is a model for a new method of manufacturing semiconductor devices. Among the first future applications, we see solar cells and light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

Companies like IBM and Samsung are leading the development of graphene to replace silicon in electronics and create new applications, such as flexible touchscreens for smartphones. They no longer have to wait. This invention fits perfectly into their production machinery and allows consumer electronics to be brought to a level where design has no limits.

According to the researchers, thanks to this invention in the future we could have self-powered nanomachines and advanced 3D integrated circuits made on graphene and nanowire semiconductors, which allow us to create smaller and more efficient electronics. Furthermore, there is also a discussion of flexible and self-powered consumer electronics to be included in clothes, notepads and other devices, such as smartphones and tablets. Professor Weman highlights that the semiconductors developed on graphene could become the basis of new types of systems and transform the semiconductor industry using graphene as a preferred substrate for many applications.

Graphene’s Use in Electrodes

The use of graphene electrodes could lead to the creation of new energy storage devices suitable for electric vehicles, renewable sources and smart grid applications.

In an article published in the prestigious magazine Nano Letters, researchers from two US companies proposed a new technological solution capable of combining the advantages of electrochemical batteries with those of double-layer capacitors (supercapacitors), so to obtain energy storage systems with high power combined with high energy density.

All the scenarios of the possible development of sustainable mobility and energy supply are closely related to the construction of suitable energy storage devices. Currently, the most promising devices are supercapacitors and lithium batteries.

Both solutions have some disadvantages: while lithium batteries offer high energy density with low power density, supercapacitors, on the contrary, can provide high power density, but with low energy density. Supercapacitors, unlike conventional condensers, are not based on the use of a dielectric material. The electrolyte of the condenser, due to the "double layer" electrical effect, leads to effective charge separation, even if the physical separation of the layers is imperceptible.

In general, supercapacitors offer advantages such as high power density, long life, simple recharging circuits, high safety, and low costs. However, they also have some disadvantages, such as a low amount of energy stored per unit of weight, a high self-discharge and a maximum achievable low voltage.

The lithium-ion battery, on the other hand, can generally be described by three main functional components, namely the anode, the cathode and the electrolyte. The non-aqueous electrolyte is commonly made up of a mixture of organic carbonates and contains lithium ions. The cathode is based on metal oxide and the most common material for the anode is graphite. These batteries have the diffusion of lithium ions between the anode and the cathode, with the possibility of these ions to migrate to or from the anode and the cathode. However, the low solid-surface diffusion limits the maximum power density. To date, there is a strong research activity for the improvement of each of these individual devices, but new approaches to the problem are also being investigated.

Recently research activities have focused on how to apply nanotechnologies in order to increase the characteristic power density of lithium-ion batteries. In the research presented by Nanotek Instruments and Angstron Materials, the researchers chose a new approach, using nanostructured graphene as electrode material. In prototype devices made during the research, the nanostructured porous graphene is connected both to the anode and to the cathode, in two distinct blocks separated by a porous membrane, and is immersed in the electrolyte. The current flow is based on the exchange of lithium between the surface of the two nanostructured graphene electrodes. The two graphene surfaces can capture lithium ions quickly and reversibly, through surface adsorption mechanisms and/or surface redox reactions.

The authors of the research carried out experiments using different graphene structures. The study is still in a preliminary phase, but results have been so promising that the hypothesis of a future realization of systems able to reach energy densities of 160 Wh/kg per cell unit is possible. This value is over 30 times higher than that achievable with conventional supercapacitors and is comparable with that of lithium-ion batteries. In addition, these systems can reach power densities of 100 kW/kg per cell unit, 10 times higher than those of traditional supercapacitors and even 100 times greater than lithium-ion batteries.

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Read: Graphene Transistors

Graphene’s Use in LCD and LED Monitors

Graphene is one of the hopes for the achievement of flexible technology. Although today some designs have been achieved base