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The Graphene Revolution

Graphene Research Grows

Written by Brian Hicks
Posted March 6, 2013

There has certainly been no shortage in recent years of game-changing technological developments. Just take a look at Apple’s iPod, iPhone and iPad, for example; all of these have paved the way for endless waves of similar devices. Now, a new “miracle material” is waiting in the wings, and it’s called graphene.

For those who are unfamiliar with the material, it can be somewhat difficult to describe. Put plainly, graphene is an ultra thin lightweight material made up of carbon atoms that are bounded hexagonally. It is taken from graphite, and the material is only one atom thick.

To put this into perspective, it would take approximately 3 million layers of graphene stacked on top of one another in order for the material to be even 1 mm in thickness.

There are many different ways to think about graphene in terms of overall scope. Some are likening it to certain plastics, but even this is perhaps simplifying the material a bit too much.

Graphene is more in-line with the utility of silicone. Just as silicone sparked a revolution in the technology industry years ago, graphene could feasibly change the game even more. The Daily Mail calls graphene a material that could change technology as we know it, making devices such as Apple’s iPad look like “toys from the age of steam trains.”

Much of the potential utility of graphene comes from the fact that it can hold a great deal of information by taking up an extremely small footprint. A credit card made out of graphene, for example, could potentially store gigabytes of information not unlike the computers of today.

The buzz over the usage of this material has caused institutions and companies to seek out as many ideas on utility as possible. The University of Manchester, for example, has launched a 50,000 pound ($75,325) enterprise competition for students with ideas for the material, according to the institutions website.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about graphene is the fact that its utility is not restricted to electronic devices. Because it basically serves as a material that is light in weight, small in footprint, and can easily hold vast amounts of information, graphene may quickly find its way into the industries of defense and medicine.

The material could potentially facilitate better functionality for solar cells, lithium ion batteries, and other energy sources. It’s even possible that graphene, when properly implemented, could make fossil fuels go further than they already do, effectively helping to make the planet more green and sustainable.

While all this may seem too good to be true, the advent of graphene’s utility in modern technological advancements is more real than most people think. Over 200 research firms are currently looking into ways that the material can be used, with thousands of peer-reviewed research papers focusing on graphene since its discovery.

Many believe that graphene will become what silicone was when its utility in technology was first discovered, although it’s too soon to tell just how much utility graphene will have until more research is done.

With Samsung funding a graphene antenna project for wireless, ultra-fast chips, it should stand to reason why the world is paying attention. After all, one of the top communications companies in the world is not likely to waste its time on something that might not come to fruition, and it appears as if it is quite set on exploring the possibilities of graphene.

It could take some years before the full potential of graphene is discovered, but one thing's for sure; the material has a bright future ahead. With universities, public companies and private individuals funding research on graphene at the moment, it’s only a matter of time before real-world applications come to light, and implementing them would likely be easier than one might assume. The material is an excellent thermal and electric conductor, and has been proven to be incredibly strong in experiments.

While nothing is definite, it’s not too far off to assume that pocket-sized devices that are faster and offer more storage than today’s computers may be available in the near future thanks to this miraculous material. Needless to say, investors will be keeping a close eye on graphene in the coming years.

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