It’s nearly the end of July, and almost the start of the hated (for me) London Olympics. Time to update on what the graphene scientists at the University of Mancheter graphene centre have been up to, and more specifically, what future uses they see for the 21st century miracle material that they discovered back in 2004. With the Olympics about to take over nearly all UK media, unless the Euro disintegrates, and the arrival of high summer, announcements will probably arrive slower for the next few weeks.
At the link below, they list 12 categories of major uses, though I’m sure that they could have easily doubled that if they’d wanted to, without getting into military uses, space uses and spook-craft. Of course, just because you discover something doesn’t give you any advantage in getting first to the market, next generation products, and the UK has a long history of being first to develop new scientific advances, but failing to commercially follow through on their potential. Television, radar, computers, the jet engine, to name only four.
Below, the future as seen by the boffins of Manchester, UK.
Graphene has extraordinary properties which will lead to a revolution in many technology areas. We have some examples here.
Flexible Touch-Screen Displays for Moblie Devices.
The outstanding properties of graphene make it attractive for applications in flexible electronics. Byung Hee Hong, Jong-Hyun Ahn and co-workers have demonstrated roll-to-roll production and wet chemical doping of mostly monolayer graphene films grown by chemical vapour deposition onto flexible copper substrates. They also used layer-by-layer stacking to fabricate a doped four-layer film with properties superior to those of commercial transparent electrodes such as indium tin oxides. The photograph on the cover shows a flexible touch-screen device containing graphene electrodes.
Contact: Prof. Kostya Novoselov, Dr. Peter Blake
Graphene is one of the strongest and stiffest known materials and is also very light weight. These properties mean that graphene can be mixed with plastics such as epoxy to make composites which have good specific physical properties (i.e. strength per unit mass). Such graphene-plastic composites could be used to replace metals in the manufacture of aircraft and cars, making them lighter and more fuel efficient. Graphene is also electrically conductive which means it can be added to plastics to make them conductive as well. Conductive plastics are needed to protect carbon fibre aircraft wings against lightning strikes and prevent sparks from static electricity in the fuel lines and tanks of vehicles.
Contact: Prof. Bob Young, Dr. Ian Kinloch
Electrochemical Applications of Graphene
There is enormous current interest in electrochemical energy conversion and storage. Developing efficient electrochemical methods and materials is a high research priority. Graphene is the ideal electrode material: it is conducting, relatively inert, light, strong, flexible and has maximum surface area – essential because electrochemical conversion processes are interfacial by definition, so depend on the amount of surface available. Consequently, there is huge effort here in Manchester in developing batteries, fuel cells, photovoltaic cells and supercapacitors based on graphene. Electrochemical methods can also contribute to the synthesis of graphene: to ensure that the supply of this fascinating material does not become a bottleneck in technological development.
The University of Manchester.