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News about newfound uses for graphene are increasing exponentially. It seems that there is no field in which this miraculous material cannot offer some kind of improvement. Let’s dive into some of those applications that salute it as one of the materials of the future.
This material can transform a photon into multiple electrons capable of carrying electricity. Now also, on rainy days.
A membrane made of graphene filters the water and remove the contaminants effectively
Graphene could be able to turn the clothes we wear into real wearables connected.
Smartphones or tablets with the flexible display are getting closer.
Methods for making graphene are still very expensive. Soybean oil can change this.
They dubbed them “Friday Night Experiments”. Andre Geim, a physicist at the Manchester Centre for Mesoscience and Nanotechnology (CMN), and his doctoral candidate, Konstantín Novosiólov, dedicated those evening pastimes to working outside their usual fields of science instead of going home. “Why don´t we create graphite transistors?” they wondered; and through serendipity, in their second effort they obtained the material which, 6 years later, would grant them the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics: graphene, the material of the future.
Graphene is a graphite coating just one atom thick and imperceptible to the human eye. Its properties are record-breaking, since it is the strongest, most flexible, lightest, and best-known heat carrier material to date. Just a couple of facts to help us figure everything out: it´s 200 times stronger than steel and weighs 5 times less than aluminium.
With this array of qualities, it seems logical that the industry is engaged in a frenzied race towards taking advantage of its virtues and developing all kinds of uses for graphene. Some of them will be discussed in the following gallery.
Taking into account that graphene is transparent and one of its most valuable properties is conductivity, it´s no strange thing that research studies regarding this material are mostly related to its use in photovoltaic panels. In fact, several scientists have proven that this material can transform a photon into multiple electrons capable of carrying electricity.
Currently, a Chinese research team has gone a step further by developing graphene solar-pluvial panels capable of generating energy from rainfall. These panels feature a graphene coating that reacts to the ions inside raindrops by generating electricity. Scientists are still trying to enhance their properties, since they don´t improve the performance of current panels in sunny days as of yet, but it could be a perfect solution for taking advantage of solar energy in low sunshine areas.
The field of sustainability has found an essential partner in graphene, and research on desalination and water treatment for this material is very promising.
Under the lens of the microscope, a sheet of graphene is a hexagonal structure featuring extremely small holes, though these remain big enough to allow water molecules to flow through. This permeability could turn graphene into an ideal filter to capture pollutants and purify water.
Some time ago, scientists at the MIT succeeded at removing salt particles from water with the help of graphene nanopores 2 to 3 times faster than current technologies. Besides, a researcher at the University of California has designed a sheer graphene-based membrane capable of filtering water and remove its pollutants effectively and with lower energy usage than current procedures.
The properties of graphene have made the textile world turn an eye on this material to design new kinds of fabric. Its durability and lightness could allow tailoring of bulletproof clothing, essential for police officers and the army.
In addition, its conductivity has made a group of developers integrate flexible and transparent graphene electrodes inside textile fibres in order to turn garments into truly portable or wearable, lightweight, durable and easy-to-carry devices.
Each year, manufacturers of electronic devices introduce new products featuring properties that less than a decade ago seemed unthinkable: facial recognition, water resistance, fingerprint sensors… Technology is now eagerly awaiting for a new revolution: flexible screens. In this scenario, graphene is certainly flexible, transparent and conductive, a winning combination for that purpose.
Nowadays, development of flexible screens is still on its early stages, but a group of engineers at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom has conceived a compound consisting of two sheets of graphene and a ferric chloride molecule coating that allows flexible electronic device manufacturing, featuring higher luminosity and lower energy consumption.
Combine all this with the development of smaller, longer-lasting batteries, which entails another significant graphene-related breakthrough in the field of mobile telephony, and perhaps soon enough we will be able to carry our Smartphone or Tablet folded inside our wallet.
While the majority of innovative industries are currently flirting with graphene in order to exploit some of its virtues, the procedures for obtaining this material utilize explosive compressed gases, therefore being still extremely complex and expensive.
But that could change, since scientists at the Australian agency CSIRO have developed a new technology to manufacture graphene from soybean oil. This procedure consists in heating the oil until it decomposes into carbon building blocks that are essential for graphene synthesis, followed by a rapid cool down process over nickel paper. According to these scientists, this is a much simpler and safer method.