What is Graphene?
Graphene is technically just a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal pattern. It is a transparent, two-dimensional sheet of carbon atoms, just one atom thick. Its the world’s first 2D material.
A study from Columbia University has shown that graphene, a single atomic layer of carbon in a honeycomb lattice pattern, is the strongest material in the world. Graphene might be used in the future for flexible electronic devices like a roll-up television screen or smartphone.
Graphene is the thinnest material known to man at one atom thick, and also incredibly strong (about 200 times stronger than steel) and it conducts heat and electricity with great efficiency.
Discovery of Graphene
The material was first studied in the 1940s and it was originally observed in electron microscopes in 1962, but it was studied only while supported on metal surfaces. The material was later rediscovered, isolated, and characterized in 2004 by Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov at the University of Manchester, UK.
It was discovered using a piece of cellotape placed over an HB pencil. The Cellotape was then ripped off the pencil and placed under a microscope. On the cellotape was a single chain/sheet of pure carbon atoms. This work resulted in the two winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 “for groundbreaking experiments regarding the two-dimensional material graphene.”
These days a process is used called chemical vapor disposition to grow graphene on a copper foundation in a furnace.
Graphene is undoubtedly emerging as one of the most promising nanomaterials because of its unique combination of superb properties, which opens a way for its exploitation in a wide spectrum of applications ranging from electronics to optics, sensors, and biodevices.
Since graphene’s isolation in 2004, it has captured the attention of scientists, researchers, and industry worldwide. There are several properties that make this material special:
* Conductivity: Electrons (the particles that make up electricity) move very quickly in this material; measured to be about 200x faster than silicon. It also conducts heat very well.
* Strength: Its ultra light, but extremely tough material. 200 times stronger than steel and yet flexible.
* Flexibility: Because its very thin and strong, it can be bent, twisted and stretched without breaking.
* Transparency: Thinnest and the most transparent material (allows 97.7 % of light to transmit through it). Graphene only absorbs a tiny amount of light (depending on the wavelength) which means you can easily see through it.
Applications of Graphene in electronics
Electronics started with copper wires, then semiconductors and now developing graphene-based electronics.
Graphene is an extremely diverse material and can be combined with other elements (including gases and metals) to produce different materials with various superior properties. Researchers all over the world continue to constantly investigate and patent graphene to learn its various properties and possible applications, which include:
*For optical electronics: It is believed that graphene will be used on a commercial scale in the field of optoelectronics especially LCDs, touch screens and organic light emitting diodes (OLEDs). Graphene is almost completely transparent material and can transmit up to 97.7% of incident light. It also has high conductivity, hence would be suitable for smartphones, tablet, desktop computers, and televisions.
*For energy storage: 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 smartphones 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.
*Improved Speakers: The speakers we use today rely on mechanical parts that vibrate to create sound. This limitation is eliminated through graphene.
*Camera Sensors: Graphene is a lot more sensitive to light than the silicon currently used in the imaging sensors of digital cameras.
*Printed Electronics: Graphene can be printed on paper and, if in the form of a circuit, can be read by RFID readers. Tickets, boarding passes, and so on are the most obvious immediate uses of such technology. Wearable electronics, flexible sensors and screens, and even electronic tattoos may all become commonplace in the near future.
*Computer Chips: We are now approaching the limits of how small silicon transistors can be made. At this rate, Moore’s Law will no longer be true going forward.
There are endless applications of graphene in electronics as well as in other categories of science and technology which we could not discuss here in details.
Conclusion with drawbacks
One of the problems with graphene right now is that it is really difficult to manufacture. For example, in computing, it is cheaper to make two powerful silicon chips than it is to make a single tiny strip of graphene. It is an amazing material to use, but a really hard one to produce reliably.The main obstacle in this lies in its physical properties and band gaps(the energy gap between valence band and conduction band).
Graphene is stronger than diamond and a screen coated with it would be almost indestructible or at least wouldn’t break when it slips out of your hand. Samsung has already started investing a huge amount of money in graphene and has even come up with a prototype of flexible mobile made of graphene. Not only in the mobile industry, graphene has found application in producing increased efficiency solar cells, sensors, semiconductors.
However, experimental devices created with graphene have shown exceptional switching speeds. It might just be the next silicon for electronic devices. So, here is why wonder material graphene is the future of electronics!