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One of the most exciting materials in Industry today is Graphene. The potential of this wonder material could have many far-reaching applications in the wider world of technology.
Graphene is a crystalline allotrope of carbon atoms, arranged in a hexagon, a single carbon atom in thickness! It’s amazing properties include:
- Strength – this material is one hundred times stronger than the same thickness of steel
- Lightness – it weighs just 0.77 of a gram per square meter
- Excellent conductivity of both heat and electricity – better than Copper
- It repels water
Graphene Could Replace Batteries One Day
Capacitors are commonly used in Electronics – for example, to power the flash in cameras. However, although capacitors and supercapacitors can store a big charge, those made with ordinary carbon cannot hold a lot of power by comparison with batteries.
Research into developing Graphene supercapacitors could change all that. Etching the surface of the Graphene with lasers massively increases the surface area allowing much more energy to be stored in just a tiny chip making them much better than conventional carbon capacitors.
The potential applications are very exciting; Graphene capacitors can be recharged many more times than batteries without needing to be replaced and could make batteries in computers, mobile phones and even electric cars obsolete in the future.
Graphene Technology Could Protect Our Troops and Firefighters
In an article published on the University of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia, website, (http://media.uow.edu.au/news/UOW118285.html), there is a report about how Australian researchers have been able to manufacture a material even stronger than Kevlar by adding equal parts of Graphene and Carbon nanotubes to a polymer. The resultant fibers can be spun and incorporated into fabrics for a variety of uses including bullet-proof clothing for Police Officers and Troops.
In the United States, researchers at the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio are working on a material incorporating Graphene that can be made into uniforms for Firefighters to protect them from sudden flashes of heat and flame by automatically closing ‘pores’ in the fabric.
Graphene Could Make Our World a Safer Place
After a Nuclear Accident such as the one at Fukushima that happened after the Tsunami hit Japan, a massive cleanup operation has to take place. Researchers at Moscow State University and at Rice University in the US have discovered that microscopically small particles of Graphene oxide make a brilliant way to clean up radioactive contaminants both safely and cheaply. It binds to the Nuclear waste, causing the tiny particles to form clumps of material that are much easier to collect.
Applications for this technology go beyond the Nuclear industry as Graphene oxide could be used to capture the contaminants generated by mining and drilling operations and prevent them from entering the water system.
Graphene could also be used to detect explosives! Graphene foam can detect nitrates and ammonia commonly found in explosives – even at very low concentrations. New York’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has developed a tiny sensor, just the size of a postage stamp that could become a vital tool in Bomb detection and protect our troops.
The original method of making this amazing material was to flake individual atomic layers from Graphite. As this is not a commercially viable method of making it in large enough quantities, many groups are working to devise a better, faster, more cost-effective way of doing so.
One of the most exciting developments is reported in a blog article on Case Western Reserve University’s (CWRU) ‘Think’ website (http://blog.case.edu/think/2012/03/26/simple_cheap_way_to_massproduce_graphene_nanosheets) where South Korean and CWRU researchers have devised an ingenious way to mass-produce Graphene Nanosheets. The ‘race is on’ – as it seems that there are many more uses for this wonder material than have even been thought of – yet!