GrapheneThe Wonder Material Every Investor Should Get to Know
For those interested in a material that’s turning the heads of both scientists and investors, we thought we’d give you a closer look at graphene and its capabilities. This perpetually reinvented “wonder material” has over 25,000 patent applications worldwide, an impressive feat considering it was only discovered just over 15 years ago. Graphene came into existence in 2003, when a physicist by the name of Andre Geim produced a material thinner than paper, stronger than diamond, and able to carry a thousand times more electricity than copper.
Geim and his team were able to isolate this material using scotch tape to separate a single layer from a block of graphite, which resulted in a single atom, lattice-like structure, and the smallest portion of graphite ever created. You can learn more about the physics of Geim’s discovery in this detailed article from APS Physics.
The paper that Geim published post-discovery, entitled “Electric field effect in atomically thin carbon films” is one of the most well-cited papers in material physics, and for good reason: Graphene has since been used and applied in a variety of ways, and is frequently compared to plastic due to its potential and seemingly limitless versatility. The lack of vacancies and dislocations in the material structure of graphene make it one of the strongest materials discovered to date, at only a fraction of the weight of its “competitors.”
For example, when added to copper and nickel, graphene strengthened them by 180 and 500 times respectively, with only .00004% graphene in the resulting compound material for each. This is promising for lighter and tougher sports equipment—graphene is already being used in tennis racquets, shoes, and a variety of sportswear—as well as flexible electronics and increasingly strong materials for construction. It’s even being researched for its effectiveness in spinal cord injury treatment, prosthetics and implants, as well as other medical applications.
Graphene’s impressive conductivity also makes it an obvious material for creating stronger batteries, except for the fact that it has such a small surface area due to its essentially 2D nature. Researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University are currently looking into solving this surface area problem with 3D printing, which would increase the surface area and allow them to create batteries and super-capacitors that could be used to power phones and tablets, or as energy storage systems for solar, wind, and wave energy.
Researchers at Virginia Tech University and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) found a way to create 3D graphene aerogels and foams with 3D printers, contributing to the surface area challenges that face graphene. According to assistant professor Xiaoyu “Rayne” Zheng with the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Virginia Tech, “This opens up freedom to realize 3D graphene with any topology, co-optimized mechanical properties, hierarchical pore sizes, surface areas, and conductivities for a host array of applications.” 3D printing leads to even more potential applications, beyond graphene’s already impressive problem-solving capabilities.
When compared to silicon, graphene proved to have a mobility (the speed at which an electrical charge flows across a semiconductor) that is 250 times that of silicon. With these traits, graphene could solve the problem of finding a replacement to silicon in technology like computer chips. Graphene is believed to potentially give CPUs the ability to run 1,000 times faster than silicon allows, and would use less power. But again, this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Graphene also has incredible heat withstanding capabilities, which is promising for the future of many of the electronics we use daily, such as phones and tablets. Graphene, when produced in a 3D form called ”white graphene,” creates a configuration in which heat photons move in multiple directions. With white graphene, electrical engineers have the opportunity to move heat through and away from key components in electronics, which means significant cooling opportunities for the devices we use everyday.
As graphene’s uses increase, so does the ease of its production. Researchers have been diligently attempting to find a way to mass produce graphene, and MIT engineers have recently discovered a viably scalable method for creating high-quality graphene membranes. They used a machine that combined the chemical vapor deposition process, which is how scientists typically synthesize graphene, with manufacturing roll-to-roll methods. They successfully produced graphene foil at a rate of 5cm per minute. Continuous running of the machine and on a larger scale could mean the beginning of mass production for graphene.
With each exciting new development in graphene research, the future of the wonder material looks brighter than ever. Graphene is strong, light and plentiful. Graphene has potentially limitless potential for innovating and powering our future technology, from electronics to energy to the supercars and bulletproof armor of tomorrow. This wonder material has so many applications to improve society at large that it’s an essential investment choice for any savvy investor.
About Don Basile
Don Basile is an entrepreneur and venture capitalist with over two decades of experience in telecommunications, healthcare, and technology. Throughout his career, he’s worked at the cutting edge, helping to innovate in areas such as data networking, storage, cable, computing, and semiconductors.
Don Basile previously served as CEO to a number of high-growth startups, all of which exponentially expanded their revenue, business model, and customer base. Don’s past roles include CEO of Violin Memory and Fusion-io, and he was a vice president at UnitedHealth Group. To date, Don and his teams have raised more than $1 billion for various high-growth startups.
Currently, Don is the CEO of Monsoon Blockchain, a blockchain-based cloud storage optimization service that provides a decentralized ecosystem better suited for intensive, data-heavy usage in areas like analytics or AI. Monsoon’s unstructured data storage protocol lets users to freely switch between different clouds for various applications, a flexibility that leads to cost savings and increased efficiency. Don believes its unique, API-based cloud infrastructure will be a valuable addition to the cloud technology industry, which is expected to reach a valuation of half a billion dollars by 2020.
In addition, Don Basile pursues a number of promising ventures. These include Liquipel, which manufactures cases and screen protectors with the latest nanotechnology; Calient Technologies, a 3D MEMS optical circuit switching for data centers and transport networks; and Sureline Systems, an application mobility provider specializing in data migration across networks.
As an enthusiastic technologist, Don keeps up with the latest innovations, and in particular is fascinated by graphene and other nanomaterials, whose capabilities promise to take us to a new phase in our advancement. Don is a part of The Graphene Innovation Investment Fund, where a team of technology investment and operating professionals help identify, invest in and build companies pursuing emerging opportunities in this area. As an emerging area of technology innovation that is projected to broadly impact our lives, Don hopes to give graphene and similar nanomaterials the opportunity to develop.