Graphene, considered to be the world's first two-dimensional material, is several times stronger than steel, and more conductive than copper, besides being flexible, lightweight and one million times thinner than a strand of human hair.
Graphene is believed to enhance the quality of life for many all over the glode. Possible applications include greener, more efficient planes and cars; inexpensive water purification systems; flexible phones and biomedical applications such as cancer and wound healing treatments.
Graphene's commercial adoption will be enhanced by answering two vital questions: what are the characteristics of commercially-supplied graphene? And how can they be employed to best effect? The launch of common industrial metrics, regarding for instance the number of layers or flake size, is important for the uptake of graphene-based technologies.
The National Graphene Institute at the University of Manchester has collaborated with NPL to develop a guide, as part of NPL's good practice guide series, that focuses on tackling the uncertainty surrounding how to measure the characteristics of graphene.
Titled “Characterization of the Structure of Graphene”, the guide provides users and producers of graphene with an understanding of how to consistently measure the structural properties of graphene.
Material standardization is vital for industry uptake. There are a number of early adopters of graphene but without standardization it is tough for industry to be assured of the properties and quality of its graphene samples.
This guide aims at addressing this gap and puts together the measurement techniques accepted in this area. It further describes the precision and high-accuracy needed for verification of material properties and will also enable the development of various other faster quality control techniques in the future.
Envisioned to form a bedrock for future interlaboratory comparisons and global standards, the guide will also accelerate the prodcution of graphene-enabled technology and enhance the potential to produce graphene in a repeatable and reliable manner.
Although there are many ways to measure the properties of different types of commercially-available 'graphene', industry needs a standardised set of measurements. This will enable companies to select the type of material best suited to their needs by reliably comparing key characteristics, supporting the development of innovative new technologies based on graphene. This guide is the first step in this process, and as the basis of international measurement standards currently being developed, will provide measurement protocols that can be used in the interim.
Dr Andrew Pollard, key author of the guide and Senior Research Scientist at NPL
This good practice guide has been developed by the NGI and NPL teams to allow the nascent graphene industry to perform accurate, reproducible and comparable measurements of commercially supplied graphene. This will address this important commercialisation barrier by providing users with a consistent approach to the structural characterisation of graphene whilst international measurement standards are being developed.
James Baker, Graphene Business Director at the University of Manchester