Regular readers of this blog know that I’m a big believer in the future of graphene and our newly arriving 21st century carbon age. Almost every day, and certainly every week, there’s some new advance announced by researchers into some property of graphene or carbon nanotubes, or into improvements in their materials handling. With so many advances announced this year alone, it’s easy to lose sight of where we really stand in terms of bringing commercial products to the consumer.
Today, thanks to an interview in Aznano.com with the CEO of Calverton New York based Graphene Laboratories Inc, we get a realistic assessment of graphene here in mid-2012 by one of the graphene industry’s experts. While the interview is intended to further Graphene Labs interests, and does so quite successfully, it does provide us with a 2012 reality check on the timeline of our emerging carbon age. The age will speed up with each new materials handling advance, but Dr. Elena Polyakova covers where we are today.
Bringing Graphene to the Masses: An Interview with Dr. Elena Polyakova
—-WS: Graphene is often hailed as a "wonder-material". Do you agree? What properties do you see as making it particularly special?
EP: Yes, graphene has some remarkable properties which make it very exciting for use in new and emerging technologies. Graphene is remarkable not because of one property in particular, but because it is highly conductive, flexible, transparent, thin, and has a high mechanical strength, all at the same time. It also keeps its properties at the nano-level, which is unique. However, it’s important to note that there have yet to be revolutionary advancements in commercial devices with graphene. If and when scientists succeed in integrating graphene in modern devices, it will truly be a wonder-material.
WS: Many of the applications of graphene are still in the early development stages. What everyday consumer products using graphene do you think we will see first?
EP: I believe the first application of graphene in consumer products will simply be composite materials for high-end products such as racing bicycles, as a replacement for other carbon materials such as carbon fiber. There is a good chance that the first high-tech application of graphene will be as a replacement for indium tin-oxide in consumer electronics, namely cellular phone touch-screens. The difficulty is bringing the scale of quality production up to par with industry standards while bringing down costs; when that hurdle is passed, graphene will become a true competitor with other materials.
WS: Did you encounter any big challenges bringing graphene into commercial production? How did you overcome them?
EP: There is only one suitable process for commercial production of graphene at this time: Chemical Vapour Deposition. The problem with CVD production is that the cost needs to be brought down, and it only grows graphene on metal catalysts such as copper or nickel. In order for graphene to be of any use in research or commercial applications, it must be transferred to a substrate such as glass, PET, or silicon/silicon dioxide. When the metal catalyst is etched away, it is done so with chemicals which can damage the quality of graphene.
Graphene Laboratories Inc.