The saying that size does not matter may be applicable in graphene — this wonder material that, although measures only an atom thick, is changing the way we live with its amazing properties.
Graphene is the thinnest material but has proven to be 200 times stronger than steel. Aside from its strength, it has versatile uses that range from serving as a conductor of heat and electricity to changing the way we build smoke detectors. This said, it is easy to point out why graphene is being tagged as a revolutionary of several industries.
But as mankind gets more familiar with this material, here are just a few graphene-using innovations that have been going on and may see in the near future:
1. Unbreakable smartphone screens
Today’s smartphone screens are made of indium. However, its extraction process causes environmental damages. Indium also lacks the properties that protect phone screens from cracking. This may soon change, thanks to graphene.
Physicists from the University of Sussex in England said graphene, a building block of graphite, can be more conductive than copper while being as flexible as rubber. Combining this with silver nanowires using spraying machines in tandem with patterned rollers creates a smartphone screen that would not crack. The combination, according to researchers, may be what is needed to make phones bendier.
As such, this may usher in not only an era of unbreakable mobile phones but also stretchable and bendable ones.
2. Better thermoregulation in shoes
With graphene being an effective heat dissipator, some have thought of using it for footwear.
One of the EU’s biggest research initiatives, Graphene Flagship, has partnered with Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia, Italy, and collaborated with FADEL, a leading Italian shoe company based in Tuscany. The joint effort is set to develop the so-called GET technology, which is designed to maintain freshness in footwear while regulating its heat. Using several layers of graphene, which is added to polyurethane on the soles, the new technology injects a bacteria-fighting element for the shoes.
“We improved the thermal properties with a tiny amount of graphene (around 1 percent) which is significant in delivering a product whose cost is not significantly larger than before,” Vittorio Pellegrini, Director of IIT Graphene Labs and Chair of the Executive Board of the Graphene Flagship, was quoted in Phys.org.
3. Health-monitoring tattoo
The University of Texas has developed a way to monitor one’s health through just a tattoo that uses graphene.
Graphene’s electronic properties make it a viable health device that can function as a biometric checker, among others. With its ultra thinness, graphene makes for a perfect tattoo for this purpose instead of gold. The yellow metal is way thicker although it is used in similar devices for health monitoring.
This resolves sensor health devices that are attached to the skin but require more stickiness or some gel to prevent from falling. With graphene-based tattoos’ capability to conform to human skin properties, monitoring would be more accurate and easy.
Graphene research, in its infancy
With all its functions, demand for graphene is expected to surge. Global Industry Analysts, Inc. projects the graphene industry to become a $125 million industry by 2020 due to a boost from uses in various sectors such as transportation, electronics, energy, and healthcare, among others. However, intensive research may still be needed to explore more ways how graphene can be used. The graphene production is still in its infancy today, which is stalling potential research developments.
The limited availability of graphene produced highlights the need for quality control to come up with genuine graphene. Elcora’s vertically integrated Graphite Refiner and Graphene Producer help the firm assure quality production throughout the supply chain — from mining, refining and performing value-added manufacturing.
Elcora, through its subsidiary Graphene Corp., ia at an advantage in the fast emerging graphene market. Graphene Corp. has a graphene facility in Canada that meets North America’s quality standards for laboratories. Its facility helps the company stay dedicated to graphene research and application development.
This said, markets today will surely be on the lookout for graphene producers like Elcora who not only can fill in the global supply void but also produce quality graphene that can last in the long term.