The Technology Behind Graphene

If you have absolutely no idea what Graphene is, let alone how it is made, then this article will be of interest to you. In the last half a century, there have been developments and discoveries in the world of medicine and science that have promised so much, and usually delivered very little. Graphene has joined this genre of high flyers and has hit the headlines quite a lot in recent years. This article will describe what Graphene actually is, why it is so important and how it is made. There is a sting in the tale, but isn’t this always the way when we discover something seemingly perfect?

Graphene 101

This material has been called the ‘miracle material of the 21st century’, and with pretty good reason. The facts about Graphene are eye catching to say the least:

  • It is 1 million times thinner than paper.
  • It is 200 times stronger than steel.
  • It is virtually unbreakable yet incredibly flexible.
  • It has amazing conductor potential.

Potential Uses

Well, as you may imagine, there are already a myriad of potential uses for this amazing material, and here are just a few:

  • Boosting internet speeds.
  • For conducting energy.
  • Various construction possibilities
  • Aircraft manufacturing.
  • Faster computer chips.

 

These are just 5 possible ways in which we can harness the incredible properties of Graphene, so where is it and why can’t we have it right now?

So What is the Problem?

The problem with this seemingly flawless material lies in the manufacturing process; there isn’t one yet. There are a plethora of huge companies that are trying to find the most cost conscious way of mass producing Graphene, and they are trying everything. The real money spinner in this stage of Graphene development lies in the future patent of this technology. At this moment in time the investment in graphene is high due to the potential rewards for any company that can mass produce this amazing product. Other companies would need to spend heavily just to use that same technology, and it will not come cheap.

How Can We Make Graphene Then?

In order to produce this material, we need to ‘grow’ it by harnessing extreme temperatures of around 1000 Celsius centigrade. Prior to this production, much of the creative possibilities of Graphene were firmly at theoretical stages. According to Dr Danii Stolyarov of the New York-based Graphene said that ‘In the process, a mixture of gases is passed above the catalyst metal – a piece of copper foil or thin nickel film – heated to about 1000C’.

So What’s The Problem?

Okay, that seems easy enough, so why aren’t we enjoying the benefits of Graphene already then? Well, put quite simply, the yield from this type of process is pretty low, and that previously described method is actually far from being simple, or cheap.

Another Way?

Boffins over in Northern Illinois University have discovered a way to produce higher volumes of Graphene by burning magnesium in dry ice, the output is higher, but at 2 atoms thick, it is still not ready for mass production.

The Race – Two Different Ones

There are two separate races underway in the world of Graphene development, and they’re both just as important. IBM and Samsung are looking at potential uses for Graphene, and the results are pretty impressive. As well as using Graphene for an unbreakable touch screen for handheld devices, ultra-fast computer chips and GPS products are all being looked into. The other race is all about developing the process for mass-production of Graphene.

Frustrating?

Well, kind of, just imagine having your hands on a billion dollar product but not being able to actually produce more than just the prototype. The company that finds the cheapest way to mass produce Graphene will instantly hold the patent for the most lucrative material production since silicon hit the scene, except you can multiply that impression by several thousand.