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What are the top ways of using Graphene?

Graphene is probably one of the most celebrated scientific discoveries to earn the description of “wonder material”.

Graphene received this accolade after being isolated from graphite at the University of Manchester in 2004.  It also saw the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics awarded to the people who created it. Let’s take a look at why!

This 2D material – the world’s first – is created from a single layer of carbon atoms tightly bound in a hexagonal honeycomb lattice. It is both the thinnest material (one million times thinner than one human hair) and the strongest, beating steel by a factor of 200.

Graphene’s light weight and elasticity would allow a single gram of the material to cover a football pitch. But beyond material properties like this – properties that make its capabilities seem almost beyond belief – what is its potential to solve real-world problems?

From electronics to planes and water purification

The structure of Graphene means it has outstanding electrical and thermal conductivity, making it ideal for use in electronics, solar cells, batteries and high-speed transistors. Equally, it has great potential as a component in composites and protective coatings used in any number of industrial applications including aircraft, buildings and even spacecraft.

Use in equipment such as sensors, as well as in biomedical technologies, energy and membranes for desalination of water, could all benefit from Graphene.

Recent highlights among the growing potential applications of the material include:

  • Graphene-based electrodes for lithium-ion batteries – allowing phones to remain charged up to 10 times longer and load 10 times faster
  • Electrodes for supercapacitors, increasing solar energy storage by 3000%
  • Replacing silicon microchips to create computers that are 1000 times faster
  • Water filtration – allowing water molecules to pass through a graphene-coated membrane while capturing pollutants

 

The new cost-effectiveness and purity of ‘Green’ Graphene

One of the latest developments in the evolution of this material is ‘Green’ Graphene. ‘Green’ Graphene is manufactured in a plasma reactor where methane is introduced and subsequently decomposes to produce elemental carbon and hydrogen. This scalable process – which forms a single layer of graphene – takes less than a second. The surface area of ‘Green’ Graphene – measured using the Brunauer-Emmett-Teller (BET) characterisation technique which aims to explain the physical adsorption of gas molecules on a solid – showed a 300-fold improvement on the surface area of graphite powder.

Both the speed and cost-effectiveness of this mass-production method for Graphene makes it advantageous compared to rival manufacturing processes such as exfoliation or reduced Graphene Oxide methods. There are a number of drawbacks in these latter approaches, including production cost, process scalability and the lack of purity in the Graphene produced.

As reported on the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings website, the mechanical exfoliation and chemical vapour deposition methods of making Graphene are neither “cost-effective enough to be suitable for production at scale” nor effective for applications that “require single-layer graphene with as few impurities as possible”.

A disruptive force for the future of industry

Development of Graphene applications is pushing ahead at speed, with an increasing number of new patents filed around the world.

Back at the original institution where Graphene began – the University of Manchester – researchers have just developed a Graphene-based testing system for disease-related antibodies aimed at a specific kidney disease. In keeping with what the properties of Graphene have promised innovators, this new system is reportedly “cheap, fast, simple and sensitive” compared to existing options.

Goodfellow, moreover, offers a great range of Graphene and Graphene Oxide products, such as monolayers of Graphene supported in metal or polymer matrices, Graphene inks, Graphene-enhanced monofilaments for 3D printing etc. ‘Green’ Graphene is available in powder form as predominantly one to a few layers of Graphene.

If you think you could benefit from Graphene usage or to learn more about its applications, contact the Goodfellow team or visit the Graphene page on our website.

References

  1. https://www.lindau-nobel.org/de/blog-the-wonder-material-graphene/