Graphene Stealing Futurist Spotlight
Technology Articles 4/23/11
By: Chris Capps
A curious little metal from the University of Technology in Sydney may have started off small and thin, but it's making big waves as some are claiming it to be the next big thing when it comes to materials. It's not a metal, but rather a new form of paper. But before you crumple it up and toss it aside, imagine a notebook made of paper that could cut through steel. That's just what a new project called Graphene allegedly can do. And it may change everything from space travel to medicine along the way.
The material is flexible, fire retardant, strong, and perhaps best of all - cheap to make. And with scientists still looking into materials to rebuild the world with, it could be changing everything we know about what it is to be strong. It would take a layer of steel six times thicker than a single sheet of graphene to achieve the same strength. The network of hexagonal lattices have caught the attention of scientists looking to use similar materials for development on any number of projects that require strong lightweight and easy to make materials that have been previously unavailable. Not the least of which, some have been proposing it be used as a replacement for heavier materials to be used in automobiles and aircraft. And let's not forget buildings.
But it's not just someone reinventing paper. Graphene has other properties as well. Scientists examining the antibacterial properties of the material have suggested it would make a perfect addition to the already growing demand for bandages that can fight off infection without using costly and increasingly ineffective antibiotics. And if the material could successfully repel bacteria, perhaps it could be used for food preservation as well. How protected would your food be? With a breaking strength of over 200 times that of normal steel, it seems it would be fairly well protected.
But scientists aren't done when it comes to examining this relatively new material. Graphene photovoltaics would allow industries to print flexible solar cells that could wrap around digital devices and even wallpaper on houses to make for ultra cheap power generation on the small scale. And while it may not be as efficient as more expensive solar cells, the extremely cheap (though still unavailable) method may one day put energy in the hands of the individual and allow for green energy to become more cost effective than ever before.
Could Graphene be the next material to revolutionize the world? It may still be some time before a few of the miracles attributed to it come to fruition, but it does appear there is some hope for the future with a lightweight material that far surpasses anything we ever once thought possible. And if what scientists say is true, then it's just a matter of unlocking it now. And that is only a matter of time.