Graphene: A Miracle Material

Molecular structure of graphene
Image taken from www.sciencedaily.com

 

 

As the sixth most abundant element, carbon forms much of the universe around us. It has an exceptional ability to chemically bond with other elements to form unique structures such as large organic chains or diamonds. Recently, research has been focused on developing a compound called graphene. As is seen in the picture above, graphene is a 1-atom thick layer of carbon arranged in hexagonal “chicken wire” pattern. Graphite, commonly used as pencil lead, is simply multiple layers of graphene stacked on top of each other. The unique mono-atomic thickness and crystalline structure of graphene gives it some unique properties.

What Makes Graphene Unique?

Before graphene was successfully isolated and identified in 2004, many chemists believed it was impossible to create 2-dimensional compounds. Graphene’s unique 2-dimensional structure gives it some highly specialized properties. The following properties are listed on GrapheneA’s website:

  1. Due to its’ sp2 molecular hybridization, graphene currently has the highest electrical conductivity of any known material.
  2. Graphene is suspected of having the highest mass-to-tensile strength ratio of any material. Or in other words, it’s incredibly light and incredibly strong.
  3. Graphene has an unusually high opacity. This means that despite being only one atom thick, graphene is still visible to the naked eye.

What Can We Use Graphene For?

Since it’s recent discovery, researchers all over the world have been working to develop practical uses for graphene’s unusual characteristics. The following examples are just a few of the current areas of research for graphene:

  • Bioelectric sensory devices
  • LCD and OLED displays
  • Water filtration
  • Super-strong materials
  • Photovoltaic cells
  • Supercapacitors
  • Instantly charged batteries

Much more work needs to be done to further develop graphene. One of the main challenges hindering wider adoption of graphene is production. There is currently no easy way to produce a large amount of graphene. However, further research is developing better production techniques in addition to finding more uses for graphene. In a few years, it’s very likely graphene could be a ubiquitous compound in many devices.

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  43. Tyler Nelson says:

    Graphene is a really interesting discoveryand I am glad you included it in your blog. I researched graphene for one of my previous classes for its energy storage capabilities. The main reason why electric cars are not widely used is because the current batteries used do not offer the range and ease of traditional gasoline engines. With graphene, the storage capabilities of batteries would greatly increase making the adoption of electric cars more feasible. The main problem with Graphene though, is that it is difficult to produce on a mass scale.

  44. Stephen Pitterle says:

    To me graphene has always seemed too good to be true.It seems like material science people are looking for some perfect material that can do everything.

    One of my professors in a MATSE class said this once, “Any material that relies on perfection to maintain its properties will inevitably fail on a large scale”

    I found this article (http://www.graphene-applications-usa-2013.com/) on the troubles of producing defect free graphene. It seems to me that graphene is far from being a true practical material on a large scale because we currently do not have a reliable and profitable way to mass produce defect free graphene. However if that problem is overcome I do think that some very useful technology can make good use of graphene’s properties.

  45. Ryan Snider says:

    I knew that different allotropes of the element carbon had special applications in materials science, but I had never been aware of the vast possibilities of using graphene, the same material that’s used for pencil lead. The cylindrical nanotube was what I had always heard the most about, not the flat sheet graphene as being a super-strong material. I found an article (at the URL http://www.mse.rpi.edu/node/53) from the materials science and engineering department of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute reporting both carbon nanotubes and graphene are strong with some of the best mechanical properties; however, graphene has the advantage over carbon nanotubes in mixing with other materials to form a composite. Graphene does a better job of lending its excellent properties to the material it blends with.

  46. Paula says:

    I really liked your entry on graphene. There is currently so much information regarding the compound, but I think you gave a great overview of what it is, what it’s currently used for, and what are its other potential uses. My mom was actually the one that told me about graphene couple months ago (and I’m the science person in the family). Apparently, it’s a very prosperous industry in Poland right now, where she lives. She’s come across this primary article: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3311234/ when she was researching some novel cancer therapies. It thoroughly analyzes all of the perspectives and challenges associated with the future research in this field. It’s a pretty good read if you’re interested in the medical applications of graphene.

  47. Mitch Howe says:

    Carbon is one of the most interesting elements in my opinion. This is probably due to it’s usefulness in material science. It’s amazing how you can change one thing about a material like the way the atoms are structured and it is turned into an almost completely different material. Did you know that you can actually pick up a sheet of one atom thick Graphene.

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