Graphene has created a sensation in material science since its discovery by A. Geim and K. Novoselov in 2004 due to its astounding properties. GrapheneThis remarkable discovery also led them to win Nobel prize in Physics in 2010. Interesting thing is, they just did it by a scotch tape and graphite.

What is Graphene?

Graphene is a sheet of carbon, a two-dimensional material. It is a single layer of the 2D structures that make up graphite. Graphite is one of the many forms that carbon has. You can picture graphite as a thick book and a single sheet of paper from the book as graphene. It is a single layer of carbon from bulk graphite.

This material didn’t become popular because of its two 2D nature though it was the first 2D material. It gained its popularity from its remarkable property. It is stronger, lighter, flexible, transparent and conducting at the same time.

Its properties can be better understood from its electronic behavior. There are three types of materials on the basis of electronic band structures. They are conductors, semi-conductors, and insulators. But it is a material that lies between conductors and semiconductors. It is neither a conductor or a semiconductor.

The electrons in graphene behave uniquely from all the other materials. We have to use relativistic mechanics to study the behavior of electrons in graphene. So, it is the bridge between high energy physics and condensed matter physics.

Due to its amazing properties, it has a wide range of applications. Apart from pure one, functionalized graphene and composites also show promising attributes. This has led it to thrive in the world of material science. Here are some of its properties and related applications.

Stronger than steel

Graphene is the strongest material known. It can sustain an Elephant’s force within a small area of pencil tip. Though graphite, its bulk form is brittle, it is 200 times stronger than steel. So, it can enhance the toughness of a material. This property has made it a promising material for use in vehicle parts, shoes and other tools. It is likely to enhance the polymers that are being used in modern times.

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In modern times, polymers are widely used. They are replacing metals in industries. They are lighter and efficient but their drawback is that they are not tough enough. Graphene can enhance their toughness and make them better.

Flexible and lighter

Despite being tough, it is also lighter and flexible. A gram of graphene sheet can cover a whole football field. It is very thin and yet tough as well as lighter. This property makes it easy for developing wearable electronics. You can wear jackets and shoes made from graphene composites. They can be hydrophobic too. The mud, rain, and dust will hardly affect it.

Its lighter nature can also help aircraft industries. The lighter aircraft can increase the efficiency of air transportation. Several research are being carried out in this respect.

Transparent

A single layer graphene is almost 97 percent transparent. It is as clear as glass. So,  it can be used widely in screens and touch panels. Reports suggest that China is already developing graphene embedded touch panels. These touch panels can be flexible, lighter and transparent. This means you can have a phone that can be folded. How cool is that?

Highly conducting

Including all the above-mentioned properties, it is also highly conducting. It has high electron mobility. This can be useful for its use in electronic devices like transistors. This can increase the response time and lead to much faster processors. These technologies are experimental and likely to be introduced in the market soon.

Above mentioned properties have made it widely popular. Tens of thousands of research papers have been already published from its discovery in 2004. Thousand of patents have been registered. It is a boon to the world of material science. In coming years it will transform the way we view materials.

Author

Ashwin Khadka is a Physics graduate from Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal. He is a science enthusiast, researcher and writer. Apart from writing he is also a researcher, with specialization on thin films for electrodes in solar cells.

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