Graphene, a two dimensional carbon allotrope is a highly versatile material and its amazing properties make it the strongest and lightest material due to its ability to conduct electricity and heat better than any other material.
It is expected that graphene will improve the efficiency and performance of current materials and substances but in the future it will be developed along with other 2D crystals to create even more amazing compounds.
In order to understand the applications of this wonder material it is important to understand its properties. Graphene is one-atom thick and is the thinnest material to be created without becoming unstable when being open to the elements temperature, air, etc.
Since graphene is just one atom thick other materials can be created by interjecting the graphene layers with other compounds, effectively using graphene as atomic scaffolding from which other materials are designed. The development of graphene and discovery of its exceptional properties aroused interest in other 2D crystals.
These 2D crystals that include molybdenum disulphide, boron nitride and tantalum disulphide can be used along with other 2D crystals for a large number of applications.
High-quality graphene, though a good conductor, does not have a band gap. In order to use graphene for future nano-electronic devices, it is required that it has a band gap engineered into it, which will reduce its electron mobility to that of levels currently seen in strained silicone films.
Graphene will find applications not just in electronics but also in bioengineering, composite materials, energy technology and nanotechnology. In bioengineering, graphene is biocompatable, thus there are no problems with the body and autoimmune responses to a foreign object (implant).
Engineered toxic graphene can also be used as an antibiotic or even anticancer treatment. It may also find application in the process of tissue regeneration due to its molecular make-up and potential biocompatibility. As an antibiotic scaffold, it shows promise in defeating microorganisms that have shown antibiotic resistance (MIRSA is one example). Work in this field will continue to make advances.
Recent tests prove that graphene will match the properties of indium tin oxide (ITO) even in present states. ITO is a major component of flat screen displays, as there needs to be a conductive transparent electrode on the front glass/plastic screen to facilitate pixel addressing. Also it has been shown recently that the optical absorption of graphene can be changed by adjusting the Fermi level. Since high quality graphene has a very high tensile strength and is flexible it can be used for flexible displays.
Graphene allows water to pass through, however it is almost impervious to liquids and gases. Graphene can be used as an ultrafiltration medium to behave as a barrier between two substances.
Graphene is beneficial since it is just one single atom thick and can be developed as a barrier that measures pressure and strain electronically between two substances. A research team at Columbia University managed to create monolayer graphene filters with pore sizes as small as 5nm.
Graphene on photon absorption generates multiple electrons. Also graphene can work on all wavelengths unlike silicon. Graphene-based photovoltaic cells are flexible and thin and can be used in clothing to help recharge the mobile phone or even used as retro-fitted photovoltaic window screens or curtains to help power the home.
Also, graphene is being studied and developed to be used to manufacture supercapacitors that can be charged very quickly, yet also be able to store a large amount of electricity. Graphene- based micro-supercapacitors can be developed for use in low energy applications such as smart phones and portable computing devices and can be commercially available within the next 5-10 years.
Graphene-enhanced lithium ion batteries can be used in much higher energy usage applications such as electrically powered vehicles, or can be used as lithium ion batteries are now, in smartphones, laptops and tablet PCs but at significantly lower levels of size and weight.
The planar atomic structure of graphene creates a truly two-dimensional system, leading to unique electronic properties. Graphene is effectively a semi-metal, or zero bandgap semiconductor, in which electrons move as massless Dirac fermions at a blazing speed of 1/300 of the speed of light. This exceptional carrier mobility makes graphene an promising candidate for high-speed electronics. While the lack of band gap in graphene may limit its use in digital computing circuits, there are no such restrictions for analog devices and circuits where the device does not need to be turned off.
Recently, there was an invention created at North Carolina State University called Q-carbon. Q-carbon is a new allotrope of carbon, joining graphite and diamond as the third. Interestingly, it is ferromagnetic, harder than diamond and it glows when exposed to low levels of energy. We will begin experimenting with this new allotrope in the near future. For publications on Q-carbon, please visit our reference material page.
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Last updated May 9, 2017