We’ve been hearing about how this new super material is going to be as revolutionary as plastic was for sometime now. At Startup LaunchPad in Hong Kong we came across a portable charger that was ready to hit the street. Seeing a shipping product made us want to take a deep dive into what exactly is Graphene and how it is revolutionizing industries and what some of the major stumbling blocks are to its mass adoption.
What is graphene?
Graphene is the first man-made two-dimensional material. Graphene is basically graphite, like the core of a pencil, but it’s been arranged into a single layer of tightly-woven atoms. Basically graphite is an object you can hold in your hand, like a pencil and graphene is a sheet of atoms which could be placed on your hand.
How is graphene different from graphite?
It’s the electrons that behave differently. In graphite, the electrons associated with the carbon atoms interact with each other between the layers to stick the sheets together to make an object. With graphene the electron coupling is gone, so it doesn’t stick together, it’s a single sheet of atoms that can be manipulated to form all kinds of different things.
Normally, electrons moving in a solid have a small effective mass associated with them, resulting from their interactions with the stuff all around them. Without these interactions, as in a sheet of graphene, electrons behave as though they are massless particles, moving freely through empty space, at close to the speed of light.
This is what allows graphene to be so versatile.
18 Ways Graphene is going to change your technology
A Battery that Charges in Minutes
We’ve heard about it, but at Startup Launch Pad at the Global Sourcing Show in Hong Kong, a trade show for international buyers and came across a G-King who has a Graphene Battery that is ready for sale. The 5000mAh unit was a little large for that capacity, but it worked, and it worked well, I was able to charge 5000mAh in under 15minutes, 12.5 to be exact!
I’d heard that this type of fast charging was coming our way, but I didn’t think that it would be available to the consumer this year. Uncovering a gem like this one is why I like attending Startup launch pad, it gives me the inside track to what’s available for buyers from China.
The G-King is looking to ship for back to school and Christmas if they find resellers, and from the crowds at their booth I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.
New Base Material for Computer Chips
If this turns out to be true, wow, we’ll be seeing a whole new world of computing. In 2011 both Intel & IBM dismissed it as a new material for semiconductors. That didn’t stop IBM from pouring $3 billion into researching post-silicon designs, including graphene, in 2014.
The problem with current silicon processor dies is that they’re not suitable for architectures smaller than seven nanometers. And shrinking of dies is how we traditionally get to faster, more efficient processors.
This could mean a transistor that runs at a much, much lower voltage than today’s ones. We’ll leave the real-world viability of this proposal to the engineers, but the study’s author suggests it could have a huge effect.
We think it’s too soon to completely write off the idea.
Graphene has the ability to be transparent since it’s possible that batteries, processors could be made out of this material, we are very much one step closer to a transparent smartphone.
We saw a prototype of a transparent smartphone here in Taiwan a few years ago, the you can see that the battery, wiring and processors are all not transparent. It’s not in our near future, but the potential for the Sci-Fi reality I’ve always wanted seems one step closer.
Graphene cameras would be 1000 times more sensitive to light than the cameras on the market today. This means a whole new level of night photography.
The University of Michigan takes a DSLR Size camera and uses multiple graphene sensors to create a 3D map of a scene This allows you to change the focus point after you’ve take the photo. Traditionally, ‘light field’ Lytro Illum would be used, this needs hundreds of thousands of micro lenses by comparison graphene would only use multiple sensor layers.
What is interesting is that as the technology matures, they expect to be able to slim it down to fit into a smartphone.
Photos and video that can be refocused after shooting is something that we’re already seeing on Smartphones, post processing. Graphene solutions would use the layers to separate colors in an image and use a depth array to piece the image together with authentic photo quality.
A 60,000mile Elevator to Space
It’s just an idea but apparently, it’s feasible enough that the International Academy of Aeronautic (IAA) wrote a 350 page paper outlining how they might go about building this elevator. The idea the idea of building an elevator to space. Ths is a real group that looked at graphene and imagined a future where this material might be able to make our world a graphic novel reality. We’re not holding our breath that space mining will become a thing, but it’s cool that Graphene inspired some scientists to dream big.
Tiny Speaker Technology
Speakers have physical parts that move back and forth, exciting the air to create sound. In 2013, the UC Berkeley made an earphone and a speaker using a graphene driver. A thermoacoustic speaker using graphene doesn’t require a speaker cavity and could eventually appear in mobile devices.
Graphene flakes get suspended and freeze-dried to produce an aerogel. The gel is then rapidly heated and cooled to cause air movement similar to that of a normal speaker cone.
Water purification & even turning salt water drinking water
Water, soil and air purification is also possible with graphene. Grafysorber from Directa Plus – is super-absorbent, and ideal for oil spills. A graphene sieve is turning seawater into drinking water,
Graphene and its derivatives (graphene oxide and reduced graphene oxide) have received increasing attention for biomedical applications as they present remarkable properties such as high surface area, high mechanical strength, and ease of functionalization. These biocompatible carbon-based materials can induce and sustain stem cell growth which is being applied to bone regeneration engineering in Singapore.
Researchers at Iowa State University (ISU) are developing a graphene-based method to transform stem cells into Schwann-like cells (cells of great importance for various nerve regeneration efforts). If successful, this process has potential to replace the complicated and expensive process used today.
Bioengineering in general is interesting as scientists hope to use graphene’s incredibly small size to penetrate cell walls, potentially inserting a molecule of the researchers’ choice.
Artificial skin with solar cells could power prosthetics
Solar cells require materials that are conductive and allow light to get through, thus benefiting from graphene’s superb conductivity and transparency. The folks at the University of Glasgow are creating a solar powered skin which powers a robotic hard.
New Battery for Electric Vehicles
Graphene batteries are headed for Electric Vehicles, they should have 50-100 times the power density of comparable lithium-ion batteries and 5-10 times the energy density.
A graphene based supercapacitor film could replace the need for a battery altogether within the next five years. The supercapacitor consists of two layers of graphene with an electrolyte layer in the middle. The film is strong, exceedingly thin, and is able to release a large amount of energy in a short amount of time, which is essential.
Telsa is even rumored to be making a battery made with graphene.
Flexible Fitness Wearables
Graphene promises not only much thinner (even paper-thin) wristbands, but they’ll have integrated graphene light sensors and circuitry that bring extra functionality just by using light.
The colors of light absorbed by the skin tells you about heart rate and blood oxygen. This is cool for fitness but also has great potential in medical devices.
Transparent graphene could create motion-sensing windows
Embedding a window with sensors, like say a light sensor, could detect if it’s night or day and open the curtain. Graphene is transparent and it is very low power, if you made the whole windows out of graphene it could be embedded with sensors.
Analyze your Food
Graphene can be used to make an image sensor that can detect invisible infrared light. You’d be able to see if a fruit is ripe, or if harmful chemicals are in food. You could analyze other things besides food, like if your tires are worn of it something is made of real wood or now.
A graphene spectrometer could appear in your phone in as little as two years.
Italian sportswear brand Colmar of ski jackets, ski suits, technical underwear and a polo shirt that all use graphene-infused fabric, called G+.
It helps transfer heat from the hot zone to colder zones one, keeping the wearer comfortable. also reduces friction with air and water, so could be useful for increasing agility for general sports, as well as for increasing speed, perhaps for swimmers.
Gloves that make VR More Real
VR needs more movement sensors and making super responsive gloves by printing graphene flakes into the material would make them very sensitive to strain. The Nokia Research team came up with the idea and they’ve also reduced graphene oxide into a temperature sensor.
The end result is a glove that, for now, sets off surface-mounted LEDs, but they’re so thin and flexible that they could be used to make virtual reality environments responsive to tiny movements in fingers.
July 2016, Dassi unveiled the first graphene bike frame. Graphene is strong and light but the frame cheats a bit and is mostly made of carbon fiber with some graphene reinforcement. The bike is only a proof of concept, and it weighs in at 750g which is the same as a pure carbon fiber. Dassi believes the can get a Graphene frame down to 500grams.
The question that remains is how much of an improvement this graphene addition really brings to the bike’s strength.
Dassi’s claims are big: that it will offer “70% more inter-laminar sheer strength; 50% more fracture toughness; retarded crack propagation; and increased carbon-to-resin adhesion”.
Printed electronics are they next big thing, and graphene is at the forefront. Costing just a few pennies each are paper wristbands or tickets, which have graphene ink printed onto them. In a recent demo, the proximity of a graphene RFID tag to a reader caused a picture to be taken of the wearer or holder.
Warning Against Structural integrity in buildings
A graphene-based coating can be applied to structures like buildings or bridges and will change color to warn of hidden damage.
Graphene is the first man-made two-dimensional material and it won’t be the last. We’re about to see this material revolutionize civilization in the same way that plastics over the last hundred years.