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New Single Layer (Atoms) From Graphite Material, Graphene Is One of Newest Discoveries in Science

The world of science and technology is evolving at an extremely fast pace. Imagine a graphene ladder extending from Earth to the Moon.

Professor Andre Geim

Professor Andre Geim

Modern Science Discovers Highly Useful 1-Atom Thick Lattice of Carbon

Discoveries in science have paved the way for a lot of things that were previously deemed as impossible. One of the newest findings, graphene, has roused scientists a great deal as they believe that this material is capable of turning their long-lived visions into reality. With graphene, scientists can make more devices to change life for the better.

What is Graphene?

Graphene is a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a two-dimensional honeycomb-shaped lattice, and the structural component of some 0D, 1D, and 3D carbon allotropes. It is just one atom thick, yet tremendously strong.

The theory of graphene has been known for years. The problem is that the scientists before were unable to form a perfect layer of graphene because thermal fluctuations cause the crystal to melt.

The Graphene Discovery Timeline

In 2004, Professor Andre Geim and his research team at the University of Manchester became successful in isolating stable graphene layers. The name graphene was acquired by Hanns-Peter Boehm as a combination of the term graphite and the suffix "ene." Boehm had discovered single-layer carbon foils in 1962.

In 2011, the first-ever cosmic detection of graphene was discovered through NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.

Scanning probe microscopy image of graphene

Scanning probe microscopy image of graphene

1-Atom Thick Lattice of Carbon With Incredible Strength and Possibilities

Properties of Graphene

Graphene is the basic structural component of charcoal, 3D graphite, 1D carbon nanotubes, 0D fullerenes, and other carbon allotropes. Carbon allotropes are one of the forms of elemental carbon. This means that graphene provides access to materials of all dimensionalities.

Graphene is also different from other materials in the sense that it contains mass-less charge carriers that act very much like photons, the particles of light. Graphene is also chiral, which means not coinciding exactly when superimposed, a non-matching or non-congruent mirror image of a molecule.

Because of this, graphene is a guinea pig for exploring new quantum mechanics principles (the mechanics of atoms and sub-atomic particles which do not behave the same way as classical physics which we studied in high school).

Graphene is also a basis for producing functional devices that do not rely on typical metals and semiconductors, hence there are many applications related to electricity and the search for tremendous structural strength (stronger than any form of steel).

A lump of graphite, a graphene transistor, and a tape dispenser. Donated to the Nobel Museum in Stockholm by Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov in 2010.

A lump of graphite, a graphene transistor, and a tape dispenser. Donated to the Nobel Museum in Stockholm by Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov in 2010.

Six Areas in Which Graphene Use Emerges

Due to its exceptional properties, graphene is considered for several different innovations. Scientists, researchers, and businesses are on the move for using graphene in many fields such as electronics, energy, and medicine. Below are some of the projected uses of graphene.

High-Frequency Transistors

Graphene makes an excellent transistor. The electrons in graphene move at a faster rate than those in silicon. It is so thin that the way it conducts electricity can be easily controlled through an electric field. Researchers have long tried to do this with metals, but their thickness cannot be reduced to the size applicable for such a function.

Protective Coatings

Graphene is so tough that it cannot be broken by any strong acids and alkalis. By wrapping up objects with graphene, they can become resistant to hydrofluoric acid, ammonia, and other corrosive agents.

Hydrogen Storage for Hydrogen-Fueled Cars

The lightness of graphene, and its ability to increase the binding energy of hydrogen, make it possible to store higher amounts of hydrogen without so much weight for the fuel tank.

Gas Detectors

A gas detector is a device used to detect the presence of gas in a specific area for safety purposes. It has been found that when the molecules of gas get in contact with graphene, it creates a measurable impact on the electronic properties of graphene. In this case, it is possible to create gas detectors that are responsive to a single atom or molecule of gas.

Ultracapacitors

Researchers believe that ultracapacitors based on graphene sheets can store as much electrical energy as lithium-ion batteries do. But while lithium-ion batteries will need about a couple of hours to store up a full load of energy, these ultracapacitors will do the work in just a few minutes.

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Disease Sensors

Some molecules, the fluorescent molecules for one, are sensitive to certain diseases that can connect to the carbon atoms in graphene. A DNA strand for a particular disease is attached to the graphene and to the fluorescent molecules.

When a similar DNA strand is introduced to the sensor, it will combine with the DNA strand attached to the graphene, thereby causing the fluorescent level to increase. This method forms a sensor that can detect the presence of similar DNA strands of the disease in the sample.

Photograph of a suspended graphene membrane in transmitted light. This one-atom-thick material can be seen with the naked eye because it absorbs approximately 2.3% of light.

Photograph of a suspended graphene membrane in transmitted light. This one-atom-thick material can be seen with the naked eye because it absorbs approximately 2.3% of light.

Current Research on Graphene

A New Data Storage Method

Chinese and Danish scientists have recently discovered that by using electron ink and graphene paper, they can produce the smallest data storage methods devised to date. As you may well know, it is the extent of memory that is a major factor in limiting the capacity of computers, for the most part.

A new data storage device that could record many more bits of information could be a transformational technology—that is, a technology that could revolutionize the way many things are done and hence bring about a huge technological and economic boost. A good analogy to the degree of transformation was recently cited by extremetech.com. A recent quote states that "The entire Library of Congress might be recorded on a single gram of graphene."

By using a technique of nano-scale writing (2 nm, instead of the 50 nm used in a magnetic-coated hard drive platter), info storage could be shrunk by a huge factor. This brings about all sorts of possibilities for miniaturization.

The problem has always been to be able to mass-produce graphene-based instruments in sufficient quantity to be practical. It may be some time before those quantities are easily produced. Hence, the hard drive has little to fear about being supplanted in the near future.

Further Research Conducted in 2020

Here are a few more examples of exciting recent research and discoveries regarding graphene and its many applications.

  • Functionalized graphene can capture viruses and deliver antiviral drugs.
  • Viruses on graphene can be inactivated by light or heat treatment
  • Graphene can be used as a coating material for medical devices, personal protective equipment, or facemasks to minimize the risk of transmission.
  • Graphene-based sensors can be embedded in textiles and environmental filters or used for high-throughput screening of virus helicase inhibitors.
Graphene can split up into an unexpected and tantalizing set of energy levels when exposed to extremely low temperatures and extremely high magnetic fields.

Graphene can split up into an unexpected and tantalizing set of energy levels when exposed to extremely low temperatures and extremely high magnetic fields.

Graphene Has a Bright Future

Graphene is the basis for the innovation of devices that do not rely on conventional metal and semiconductors, thus is found useful in many fields. Due to its unmatched chemical and physical properties, graphene is projected to be used for several/many purposes.

Graphene can be turned into a high-frequency transistor, a protective coating, hydrogen storage for hydrogen-fueled cars, a detector of a single molecule or atom of gas, an ultracapacitor that is better than lithium-ion batteries, and a sensor for certain illnesses.

Resources

© 2012 John R Wilsdon

Comments

John R Wilsdon (author) from Superior, Arizona on November 21, 2012:

Thanks, Nell. We are having our Thanksgiving this week in the U.S. Best to you.

Nell Rose from England on November 21, 2012:

Now this is fascinating to me, I love science and anything new like this is amazing, I find it so fascinating that something on such a small scale can be so useful, especially being able to help in the health department too. I don't try to understand the technical side of it, but I do find it really interesting, voted up! nell

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