Graphene is the material of the future.” Professor Mario Hofmann introduced his current research with the nano-engineering group at National Cheng Kung University (NCKU), southern Taiwan.
“Graphene is one atom thick, looks like glass, behaves like metal and is one of the strongest materials known,” said Hofmann while describing this nanomaterial in the plainest language.
“Many researchers are now working hard to make large area graphene for all kinds of applications but few ideas are out there on how to innovatively apply graphene flakes. Flake solutions are almost like the ugly step sister of large area graphene that nobody notices,” according to Hofmann.
He said, creating graphene flakes was much simpler than other graphene fabrication methods, as only graphite and common chemicals are needed.
The ease of creating graphene flakes explains its lower cost relative to graphene films and other nano-materials such as nanoparticles or nanotubes.
The reduced cost, which could reach as low as 1 dollar per kilogram, could work towards the benefits of industries which graphene can be applied, according to Hofmann.
He demonstrated the result of an experiment by showing a piece of paper that graphene flake solution had been painted on, and then explained that this treatment made the paper electrically conductive enough to be used as an electrical wire.
Dr. Hofmann’s team used graphene flakes to produce a strain sensor that measures mechanical force through change in its electrical resistance.
The research team made a strain gauge directly on a light bulb which is impossible with current technology due to its curved, transparent and fragile surface.
The results were very impressive, and they have even attracted the attention of the editors of one of the most influential scientific journals, Science, which published a highlight of the research, Oct. 26.
These results offer the vision of paper-like keyboards and meter sized touch sensitive screens.
In practical applications, Hofmann foresees the use of graphene strain sensors to replace current sensors in oil and gas pipe lines, bridges, engines and airplanes to check the conditions of these items.
Hofmann pointed out that graphene has not been widely used for commercial products despite its advantages. Therefore, he hopes that his strain gauges can be one of the first real life applications of graphene.