It’s been described as a ‘wonder material’ and there’s good reason too. Graphene is set the change the future of numerous industries across the world. Deriving from graphite – commonly found in pencils, Graphene is the world’s first 2D material. So, what actually is it? Why is it getting everyone excited? And furthermore, what’s its potential economic impact?
The Discovery of Graphene
Graphene has been talked about for many years. There have been countless experiments that have tried but failed to extract it from graphite.
In 2004, this changed. Using experimental techniques, two researchers from The University of Manchester, Professor Andre Geim and Professor Kostya Novoselov, managed to isolate the material. They went on to win a Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 for their ground-breaking work.
200 x Stronger than Steel, 1m x thinner than hair
So, why is Graphene such a hot topic?
It’s over 200 time stronger than steel and a million times thinner than a strand of hair. It’s made up of a hexagonal lattice of carbon atoms and is only a single atom deep.
The material is recognised for being extremely flexible, lightweight and conductive. It can even be used as a barrier – preventing even helium from passing through it.
As a result of it extraordinary properties, Graphene has found numerous uses. It can be used as a single layer or stacked to serve specific uses. It can also be mixed with other materials and liquids. It’s been labelled by many as ‘the material of the future’ and the opportunities it brings are seemingly unlimited.
The Economic Impact of Graphene
It’s estimated that by 2020, the global market for graphene-based items or products will be worth around £500 million.
What is Graphene Used for Today?
Today, Graphene is being used in a wide range of industries and products. You’ll be able to find it in wearable tech, tennis rackets and even lightbulbs. It’s being developed for uses in cars, aircraft, buildings and energy storage too. It’s likely to boost efficiency across the board and revolutionise many current processes. We expect to see entire markets born from this material’s potential.
The Potential of Graphene
There are numerous potential uses for graphene. Graphene membranes, for instance, could help to transform water purification technologies in developing countries.
The exceptional conductive properties, both electrical and thermal, could lend Graphene a wider industrial appeal. From the electronics sector to healthcare, sports and defence markets – the benefits of graphene will be seen globally and in many different shapes and sizes.
The UK is a leading figure in developing the material for industry and will continue to benefit from its various innovations.
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