Graphene Goes to Market

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Graphene Goes to Market

As we’ve explained in previous issues of Trends, graphene is truly a “wonder material” that is made from a single layer of carbon atoms in the shape of a honeycomb. It was isolated from graphite in 2004 by University of Manchester scientists Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov, who won the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics for their game-changing discovery.

Graphene offers a remarkable combination of properties:

  • It is the strongest known material, at 200 times the strength of steel.
  • It is harder than diamond.
  • It is the thinnest substance ever discovered, at one-millionth the width of a sheet of paper.
  • It is extremely flexible and stretchable.
  • It conducts both heat and electricity better than any other material.
  • It is nearly transparent.
  • It filters out nearly every type of liquid gas, while allowing water to flow through it.

Because of these properties, graphene offers the potential to revolutionize any number of industries—if it can be manufactured cost-effectively.

Fortunately, according to a research paper published in the journal Advanced Materials, scientists from the University of Exeter have discovered an innovative new technique that will make it easier and cheaper to produce graphene.1

The current production process for making graphene relies on an expensive, time-consuming method called chemical vapor deposition (CVD). The Exeter researchers created graphene in an industrial cold wall CVD system, called nanoCVD. This approach is based on a concept that is already used to make other products by semiconductor manufacturers.

What this means is that graphene could easily be mass-produced by semiconductor firms, using their current plants, instead of having to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to design and build new factories to make graphene. This approach will allow graphene to be made 100 times faster, while slashing the cost by 99 percent.

Along with other breakthroughs we’ve reported on in the past, this development is finally enabling scientists to feel confident that they’ll be able to take graphene out of the lab and into the real world.

For example, the Exeter researchers are using nanoCVD to develop the first transparent and flexible touch sensor. Taking advantage of graphene’s flexibility, the researchers believe they will be able to make electronic skin for robots that will make the machines move and appear more like humans.

What other applications are on the horizon? Please consider the following forecasts:

First, products based on graphene’s flexibility will transform the electronics industry, allowing wearable electronics to become ubiquitous...

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