“…use of graphene membranes for filtering hydrogen from the air, which could then be used to power fuel cells in our cars and other hydrogen generators, making a dream of clean, free energy come true.”
It is 150 times stronger than steel, yet the thinnest thing in the universe, feather-light, ultra flexible and super-stretchable. In one word-magical. Its potential uses are almost countless. So far more than 13, 000 patents based on this material have been filed in the last five years. Some say that besides its obvious applicability in consumer electronics, aircraft manufacturing and biomedicine, it can also be used for improving properties of solar cells, hydrogen fuels cells, and harvesting hydrogen from the atmosphere, which could be a major break truth for a renewable, green energy source. Thanks to its unique hexagonal honeycombed structure, it has better electric, thermal and magnetic properties than any known material.
This substance was first isolated in 2004. For their findings Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov were awarded Nobel Prize. Although many researchers speculated that it could be possible to extract this atom-thick layer of carbon under some special conditions, it was negated that a stable two-dimensional material can exist at room temperature.
Now, graphene is a miraculous material which properties are explored for various future uses in thousands of labs worldwide. EU granted $1 billion for R&D projects related to graphene and its applications. Chemistry, physics, medicine, electrical engineering, and electronics are just a few fields where this substance can grant groundbreaking discoveries.
Until quantum computers become operable, graphene holds the only promise to continuous evolution of the computers, since it has a potential for further scaling down and speeding up integrated circuits and other computer components based on existing technology. In 2008, one atom thick and 10 atoms wide graphene-based transistor was produced, while three years later IBM announced they have created an integrated circuit out of this material that could handle frequencies up to 10GHz. Thanks to its unique structure, it demonstrates strong “field effect”, a characteristic that ensured silicone the leading position in the world of modern technologies. But, silicone-based technology has couple of more years left to keep up with Moore’s Law, and then graphene should take over, if the researchers figure out how to make it act as a switch. Unlike silicone, and other semiconductors, which have the ability to be switched on an off (a ‘band gap’), once graphene is in the presence of an electric field, it is impossible to turn it off.
According to CNN, recent study published in the journal Nature anticipates the use of graphene membranes for filtering hydrogen from the air, which could then be used to power fuel cells in our cars and other hydrogen generators, making a dream of clean, free energy come true.
More efficient solar cells
While silicone can produce only one electron per photon it absorbs, graphene is capable of generating multiple electrons. This capability makes it obvious solution for replacement of silicone solar cells with those made out of graphene, which could generate more than twice as much power than theoretically possible with silicon cells.
Scooping up radioactive waste
Not long after researchers discovered that graphene oxide has a tendency to bind with radioactive elements very fast even at low concentrations, thus forming a sludge that could be gathered and disposed of afterwards, the unfortunate events in Fukushima, Japan, reminded us that such technology can be life-saving.
Biomedical application of graphene is relatively new, but very promising, area of research. Apparently it can be effectively used for drug/gene delivery, bio sensing, cancer therapies and many more. Graphene oxide has excellent properties, such as biocompatibility, stability and solubility, which make it an ideal candidate for drug delivery at a nanoscale. Because of its conductivity, it can be used for different types of sensors, including biosensors, immunosensors, and DNA sensors. Use of graphene for diagnostics and treatment of diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s is still in its infancy, but there are many promising heralds from multiple R&D centers.
Bright future pending
Numerous other characteristics of graphene could be listed here, and its miraculous applications forecasted, but the biggest challenge for its wider application in the industry is finding solutions for its cost-effective production at scale.