Throughout history, mankind has placed enormous value on substances of different kinds. Entire ages were named after Bronze, Iron and Stone to name a few demonstrating just how significant each of these materials were to man at the time.
One of the newest materials discovered is Graphene, and its potential to change multiple fields in technology is becoming more and more apparent.
What is Graphene?
Graphene is a single layer of the substance graphite (the same material used in pencil lead). Graphite is a similar substance to carbon. It has the same atoms but they are arranged differently giving each substance its own unique qualities. Substances like these are called allotropes (i.e. they have the same atoms but different properties) and another example of this is graphite and diamonds. Both have the same atoms, but could not be more different in properties. Graphite is brittle, whereas diamonds are one of the strongest substances known to mankind.
How Was Graphene Discovered
Graphite has been known and used by humans from as early as the Neolithic age. For many years scientists have been wondering if single layers of the substance graphite could be isolated. The possibility of this happening has remained a theory until recently. In 2004 scientists at the University of Manchester, Andre Geim, and Konstantin Novoselov were polishing a large piece of graphite using a roll of scotch tape.
While polishing they noticed minuscule flakes of graphite peeling off the main piece and sticking to the tape. They carried on peeling off layer by layer of the flakes until they had produced the thinnest sample of the graphite possible. The process of stripping layers of a substance down to a single layer is known as mechanical exfoliation, and the end result in this instance was graphene.
When graphene is stripped away from graphite its properties become almost magical. You are left with a layer of substance only one atom thick – the first two-dimensional material known to mankind. Even though it is so thin, it’s still 100 times stronger than steel. It also conducts heat and electricity better than any other substance on earth making the possibility of disposing of heavy copper electrical wires a potential reality.
Possible Uses for Graphene
The potential uses for a substance with as many amazing properties are almost endless, and certainly possess the potential to change the world as we know it.
Here are a few examples of what graphene could be used for:
- Desalination of Seawater
With global warming and climate change happening all across the globe, drought is becoming an increasing reality for a lot of countries. The need to purify seawater into drinking water is becoming a more and more a necessity, and graphene provides a highly efficient method of doing just that.
Because it is only an atom’s width thick, a graphene sheet is capable of forming a type of sieve fine enough to block salt molecules from passing through the sheet, but at the same time allowing water to flow through. Although this technology is still in development, it promises a real solution to desalination issues in the future.
- Super Quick Charge Batteries
Rechargeable batteries these days have the habit of losing charge capacity over time and when spending a lot of time online on a mobile device playing at an NZD casino, battery life becomes an issue.. However, a battery has been created by Han Lin, a researcher at Australia’s Swinburne university, which comes with a graphene supercapacitor.
Using a 3D printer, Lin built sheets of graphene for this device, which have the potential to one day replace the lithium batteries in everything from smartphones to electric cars. Not only can this super battery be used over and over without losing charge, it also charges in mere seconds. The longevity of the lifespan of the battery has very positive implications to environmental impact as the need to constantly replace the battery will become a thing of the past.
- Super Strong Touchscreens
Imagine a smartphone with a graphene screen rather than a glass screen. This super light, super thin and most importantly super strong substance will ensure that you never have to worry about a shattered phone screen again. Considering the amount of time we spend on our mobile devices engaging in activities online, this could be a game changer.
These are just a few examples of what we can expect to see from the substance graphene in the future. Its possibilities are endless and its discovery has implications in a wide spectrum of industries from medicine to electronics to energy generation and storage.