Could the thinnest, strongest, lightest and most conductive material ever created spark a new industrial revolution? At Hannover Messe, graphene was among the materials expected to have a big future.
In theory, graphene can do almost anything. It’s the first truly two-dimensional crystal and the thinnest, strongest and lightest material known. Its other properties also give it the potential to change the digital world. Kevin Curran is a senior member at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
The importance of graphene is that electrons can travel across it at close to the speed of light. This is about one hundred times faster than they move at present through silicon, the de facto substrate for computers. It is also super-thin, super-strong, super-flexible and an excellent conductor.
Theoretically possible since the 1940s, graphene was first produced by Konstantin Novoselov and Andre Geim at the University of Manchester in 2004, earning both scientists the 2010 Nobel Prize for Physics. Since then, the race has been on to make graphene a commercially viable industrial material.
All the carbon atoms in graphene are arranged in a 2D frame, a one-atom-thick fabric,” said Novoselov at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February 2016. “But despite being so simple, it attracts many superlatives. It’s the strongest possible material, the most stretchable, the most permeable, the most conductive. There are other materials that have one of those properties, but here it’s combined in one very simple crystal.
Since it’s manufactured from abundant carbon, the supply of graphene is nearly inexhaustible, in stark contrast to the rare metals presently used by the electronics industry.