What is Graphene?


Graphene the material 100 times the strength of Steel!

We have all heard of the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. Epochs that have defined human civilisation because of the material we started using at that time. The material was key to us revolutionising the way we live. Yet, few will have given any thought to a potential new age involving a material called Graphene. Imagine that: The Graphene Age. It does not have a great ring to it but it could one day define the future of mankind. 

Graphene has already been dubbed as a super-material. One that is stronger than steel, yet thinner than a piece of paper. You will have seen this material in a pencil lead. Graphite is very similar to carbon but different in a scientific sense. Its atoms are in a different format. 

If you look closely at the science of graphene you will notice the material gets its strength from the way the atoms are formed: like a honeycomb shape and one strong enough to (almost) get into the same league as the graphite diamond.

When you think how big the steel industry was in the recent industrial epoch, and then consider how much stronger graphene actually is than this toughest of all metals – you can see why it is getting technology very excited indeed. 

Graphene is around 100 times the strength of steel. But it is not just its strength that seems to impress. It is a material which protects itself from most liquids and gases – making it seemingly impermeable. 

Its flexibility and transparency make it an ideal material for use in the fashion industry. Yes, there are clothes that can be worn made from this material and we will look at some of the attire using this dynamic material in another article.


A History with Potential

Graphene has always been around. It has an atomic structure that impresses but there was always a time when scientists theorised about reducing this dynamic material into a single thin layered sheet. 

Slicing into a thin sheet was always deemed an impossibility – until recently. In fact, we had to wait until this 21st century until the first isolated example of this material was formulated at the University of Manchester.

One of the first ever samples produced came from a large rock of graphite. Use cello tape, researchers discovered micro-thin flakes of graphene left on the sticky tape. 

Its discovery was bizarre, amusing and full of sceptical shakes of the head from various circles in science. But the research pushed on and after being rejected by popular scientific journals – time and time again – the researchers were eventually rewarded by their persistence.

The Nobel Prize for Physics 2010

After several attempts to create thin layers of graphene from the graphite blocks, it was finally accepted by the scientific community that there really was something very remarkable about to break through. 

The material could be used in a number of fields within industry. Consumer technology, clothing, environmental sciences and even as a template for entering data on. The potential for the future of graphene is remarkable.

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