Graphene is another allotrope of carbon and a new material. First isolated in 2004, it holds great promise for uses
in many industries in the future including: electronics, solar panels, touch screens, LED lighting and in many new
composite materials including bullet proof vests.
Graphene consists of a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a chicken wire arrangement of hexagons, similar to that
found in graphite. Graphene is a very thin substance at only one
atom thick. Stacked layers of graphene form graphite.
The first samples of graphene were obtained by removing single layers of these carbon hexagons from graphite using some
very hi-tech stuff- sellotape!! Like graphite each carbon atoms makes three strong covalent bonds leaving one free
electron. This free electron is responsible for the excellent electrical conductivity of graphene. The three strong
covalent bonds made by each carbon atom make graphene an incredibly strong material, some 200 times stronger than steel.
Uses of graphene
Graphene is one of the strongest substances known despite only being one atom thick, it is an excellent thermal (heat)
and electrical conductor, it is transparent and highly flexible. These properties seem like a scientists dream material
and open up graphene to a mass of uses. Possible uses include:
- Its flexibility, excellent electrical conductivity and the fact its transparent open up the possibility of bendable, flexi
electronic devices such as smart phones, TV and even wearable technology that could be woven into our everyday clothes and
materials. Imagine a TV woven into your curtains or one that you fold up and put into a drawer when not in use.
- Graphene woven with other materials could provide strong lightweight composite materials e.g. bullet-proof vests.
- Graphene used in battery technology increases the life and charge held by batteries over their lifetime.
In the future we
are bound to be more reliant on battery technology in the transport industry, cars, buses, lorries and even aeroplanes.
Graphene holds promise in producing batteries that are lighter, hold more power and charge quicker.
- The possible flexibility of electronic devices allows the development of new materials for medical uses, particularly sensors and probes which could move
freely around the human body.
- Another area of promise is in the use graphene in solar cells. Graphene is an excellent material for converting solar
energy into electrical energy and solar panels made from graphene are much more efficient than those being currently
- Filters made from graphene are able to purify water efficiently and this could increase the amount of clean water available
to billions of people in many countries.
- Graphene would make an ideal paint, it flexible, thin, very strong and would easily block water and oxygen and so prevent
corrosion in metals.
You may be wondering why then is graphene not more widely used since it has so many amazing properties? At present
graphene is expensive to produce in large quantities and to a high quality. However once these problems are overcome
there may be a revolution in many areas using this wonder material.