Graphene, a two dimensional carbon allotrope is a highly versatile material and its amazing properties make it the strongest and lightest material due to its ability to conduct electricity and heat better than any other material.
It is expected that graphene will improve the efficiency and performance of current materials and substances but in the future it will be developed along with other 2D crystals to create even more amazing compounds.
In order to understand the applications of this wonder material it is important to understand its properties. Graphene is one-atom thick and is the thinnest material to be created without becoming unstable when being open to the elements temperature, air, etc.
Since graphene is just one atom thick other materials can be created by interjecting the graphene layers with other compounds, effectively using graphene as atomic scaffolding from which other materials are designed. The development of graphene and discovery of its exceptional properties aroused interest in other 2D crystals.
These 2D crystals that include niobium diselenide, boron nitride and tantalum sulphide can be used along with other 2D crystals for a large number of applications.
High-quality graphene, though a good conductor, does not have a band gap. In order to use graphene for future nano-electronic devices it is required that it has a band gap engineered into it, which will reduce its electron mobility to that of levels currently seen in strained silicone films.
Applications of Graphene
Graphene will find applications not just in electronics but also in bioengineering, composite materials, energy technology and nanotechnology.
Bioengineering will definitely be an area where graphene will be definitely used though certain hurdles need to be overcome. According to present estimations, it will not be until 2030 when we will begin to see graphene widely used in biological applications as it is essential for us to understand its biocompatibility.
As graphene offers high electrical conductivity, thinness, strength and high electrical conductivity it may help develop quick and efficient bioelectric sensory devices, with the ability to monitor such things as glucose levels, haemoglobin levels, cholesterol and even DNA sequencing.
Engineered toxic graphene can also be used as an antibiotic or even anticancer treatment. It may also find application in the process of tissue regeneration due to its molecular make-up and potential biocompatibility.
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.
Recent tests prove that graphene will match the properties of indium tin oxide (ITO) even in present states. Also it has been shown recently that the optical absorption of graphene can be changed by adjusting the Fermi level. Since high quality graphene has a very high tensile strength and is flexible it can be used for flexible displays.
It is believed that we can eventually see devices such as graphene-based e-paper and flexible electronic devices.
Graphene allows water to pass through, however it is almost impervious to liquids and gases. Graphene can be used as an ultrafiltration medium to behave as a barrier between two substances.
Graphene is beneficial since it is just one single atom thick and can be developed as a barrier that measures pressure and strain electronically between two substances. A research team at Columbia University managed to create monolayer graphene filters with pore sizes as small as 5nm.
Graphene has a higher strength and is less brittle when compared to aluminium oxide presently used in sub-100nm filtration applications. Hence graphene can be used in water filtration systems, desalination systems and efficient and economically more viable biofuel creation.
Graphene is stiff, strong and very light. Presently aerospace engineers are incorporating carbon fibre into the production of aircraft as it is also very strong and light.
It is anticipated that graphene will be used to create create a material that can replace steel in the structure of aircraft, improving fuel efficiency, range and reducing weight. Since it has good electrical conductivity, it will be used to coat aircraft surface material to prevent electrical damage resulting from lightning strikes.
This graphene coating may also be used to measure strain rate, notify the pilot of any changes in stress levels that the aircraft wings are under. These characteristics may also help in developing high strength requirement applications such as body armour for military personnel and vehicles.
Graphene can be used as an alternative to ITO or silicon in manufacturing photovoltaic cells. Silicon is presently used extensively in producing photovoltaic cells, however graphene-based cells may be less expensive.
Graphene on photon absorption generates multiple electrons. Also graphene can work on all wavelengths unlike silicon. Graphene-based photovoltaic cells are flexible and thin and can be used in clothing to help recharge the mobile phone or even used as retro-fitted photovoltaic window screens or curtains to help power the home.
One research area being extensively studied is energy storage. While other electronics areas have been advancing rapidly over the last few decades there always has been a problem in storing the energy when it is not being used.
These energy storage solutions have been developing at a very slow rate. The solution is to develop energy storage components that can hold sufficient amount of energy and be charged quickly as presently either of these characteristics alone are present in energy storage devices.
Also, 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 smart phones 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.
Graphenea is a leading graphene producer for industrial and research needs. Graphenea has developed a leading synthesis and transfer process to obtain high uniformity monolayer graphene films on any substrate.
This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Graphenea.
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