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The Next Rare Earth...

One Word, Benjamin: Graphene

Written by Christian DeHaemer
Posted March 12, 2012

When you think of a strong material, wood, concrete, or steel probably come to mind...

graphine mar 12

But they fail in comparison to the superior properties of graphene.

For those who don't know, graphene is a single layer of graphite, one atom thick.

That's right — it's the same material that's in your pencil tip.

But it is a pure material with unprecedented strength: ten times stronger than steel and six times lighter.

It can also conduct electricity, and therefore can be used as a transistor.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg for this material of the future.

First, let me tell you the amazing story of how it came to be...

Scotch Tape and Dumb Luck

Back in 2004, a couple of scientists working at the University of Manchester wanted to see if they could get a single layer of graphite.

At the time, this nanomaterial — which is shaped like chicken wire (the Buckminster Fuller six-sided shape) — kept wrapping itself in a tube.

The scientists, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, asked a grad student to shave the thinnest layer of graphite he could.

After looking under a powerful microscope, it was determined to be more than 1,000 atoms thick. They then took their sample to a powerful machine that could see and manipulate atoms.

While waiting for their colleague to prepare the highly sensitive equipment, our heroes noticed the operators used Scotch tape to clean the machine, picking up dust and particles...


Our intrepid researchers put a flake of graphite between Scotch tape and pulled it apart. The graphite split, and split, and split until they had a single layer: a sheet of graphite one atom thick.

Thus, graphene was born.

Geim and Novoselov won the Nobel Prizes in 2010 for their discovery. Since then, hundreds of researchers the world over have jumped on the bandwagon in an effort to make this incredible material useful.

What can it do? you ask. Well, I'll tell you...

Miracle Product

Graphene has a high strength-to-weight ratio, making it the perfect material for use in automobiles, rockets, boats, windmill blades, and airplanes.

Nikhil Koratkar, professor in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering at Rensselaer, said:

I’ve been working in nanocomposites for 10 years, and graphene is the best one I’ve ever seen in terms of mechanical properties. Graphene is far superior to carbon nanotubes or any other known nanofiller in transferring its exceptional strength and mechanical properties to a host material.

Not only does graphene have the strength of a flat Buckyball, but it makes excellent transistors.

The sheets are so thin, you can control the binary on/off switch by applying an electric field. This is impossible to do with metals because you can't make metal films thin enough without losing transmission abilities.

As a result, graphene-based transistors can run at higher frequencies and with more efficiency than the silicon transistors in common use today.

That means graphene is faster and uses less power.

Furthermore, graphene can replace indium-based electronics for light-emitting diodes. This means lower-cost display screens in mobile devices.

The benefits continue:

  • Graphene can be used to store hydrogen for fuel cell powered vehicles.
  • Graphene is used in medical sensors to diagnose diseases. This miracle material has a unique property in that it has a wide surface area with which it attracts certain molecules that are sensitive to particular diseases.
  • A researcher named Fazel Yavari has developed graphene foam: “a new sensor to detect extremely small quantities of hazardous gases. The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute doctoral student harnessed the power of the world’s thinnest material, graphene, to create a device that is durable, inexpensive to make, and incredibly sensitive.”
  • Graphene is resistant to powerful acids and alkalis, and so can be used as an inert coating.
  • It can be used as an ultra-capacitor with better performance than batteries.
  • The University of Technology in Sydney has developed a graphene paper that is super thin, yet strong enough to be used in rockets. And as graphene doesn't show up on radar, it would invisible.

Graphene is the material of the future. But like rare earth metals, it is in limited supply...

Ahead of the Curve

My associate Nick Hodge is the chief editor and creator of the market-beating Early Advantage letter.

As such, he is constantly ahead of the technology curve.

Nick was investing in Chinese batteries before anyone knew what lithium was, leading to a near-400% win on BYD. He was doubling money on solar stocks years before Solyndra went bankrupt. And now he is tracking the winners and losers in the next material revolution.

If the classic Dustin Hoffman movie The Graduate came out today, the one word Mr. McGuire would say to Benjamin wouldn't be "plastics"... it would be graphene.

Nick Hodge is pre-approving members for his free presentation on graphene.

The seminar takes place on March 22nd at 7 p.m. (EST). You must be registered to take part, so take a minute today to sign up here.

Don't miss out. The cost is nothing but a little of your time.

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Christian DeHaemer

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Christian is the founder of Bull and Bust Report and an editor at Energy and Capital. For more on Christian, see his editor's page.

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