Graphene is an amazingly strong, thin, and versatile “wonder material” that has led to over 25,000 patents since its creation in 2003. Praised by scientists for being a single layer of graphite atoms with amazing strength and conductivity, investors are just as impressed with graphene’s potentially limitless applications. Think of all the ways plastic changed the world when it was first invented in TK; now it’s graphene’s time to shine. Here are 10 major ways graphene will change the world as we know it.
Combining two layers of graphene with one layer of electrolyte could be the key to getting us in battery-free electric cars within the next five years. By replacing the cumbersome and costly car battery with a graphene powered supercapacitor, scientists may have hit on the answer to the stunted growth of electric cars. Supercapacitors could lead to faster vehicle acceleration and speedy charging. Combined with the fact that they’re also smaller, lighter, and stronger than today’s electric batteries batteries, it’s clear that graphene will reshape the auto industry in coming years.
Graphene based materials have been favorably received in the biomedical field. Ongoing research into applying graphene’s unique physiochemical properties to healthcare is positioning the nanomaterial to improve treatments in a variety of ways. From stimulating nerve regeneration to being used in cancer treatment via photo-thermal therapy, graphene could change the way we heal.
Combining an atomically thin graphene filament with a computer chip led scientists earlier this year to create the world’s thinnest light bulb. This is a huge feat, as light bulbs have never been able to combine with computer chips because the high heat needed to produce light has damaged the chips. However, graphene’s unique property of becoming a bad conductor at high heats allows it to transmit light without damaging the attached chip. This is going to be a huge game changer not only in home lighting, but also in smartphones and computers, where graphene will provide a faster, cheaper, more energy efficient and compact method of processing information. Let there be light!
4. Green Energy
Graphene allows positively charged hydrogen atoms or protons to pass through it despite being completely impermeable to all other gases, including hydrogen itself. This could make fuel cells dramatically more efficient . It also could allow for hydrogen fuel to be extracted from the air and burned as a carbon-free energy source. This source of water and electricity would, incredibly, produce no damaging waste products.
5. Sports Equipment
From super strong tennis racquets to racing skis, graphene has limitless potential to improve the strength and flexibility of sports equipment. It has already been utilized in cycling helmets that are super strong and lightweight. By using graphene as a composite material to strengthen traditional sports equipment, new hybrids are hitting the market for athletes to achieve the competitive advantage.
6. Bionic Materials
While this may sound like a plot from a Spiderman movie, researchers have successfully transmitted graphene onto spiders, who spun a web incorporating the nanomaterial. The result? Webs with silk 3.5 times stronger than the spiders’ natural silk—which is already among the strongest natural materials in the world. This discovery could lead to the creation of incredibly strong bionic materials that could revolutionize building and construction methods.
7. Tech Displays
Most of today’s tablets and smartphones are made of indium tin oxide, which is expensive and inflexible. Graphene is set to replace this as a thin, flexible display material for screens. This could also be a huge breakthrough for wearable tech, where flexibility is even more important.
8. Manufacturing Electronics
The recent application of graphene based inks will fuel breakthroughs in high-speed manufacturing of printed electronics. Graphene’s optical transparency and electrical conductivity make it much more appealing than traditional ink components. Thanks to its flexibility, future electronics might be able to be printed in unexpected shapes.
9. Cooling Electronics
White graphene—or graphene in a 3-D hexagonal lattice structure—could hold the key to keeping electronics from overheating. By providing better heat distribution and flow than current electronic materials used in smartphones and tablets, graphene will keep the future cool.
10. Better Body Armor
By now you know how thin, strong, and flexible graphene is. What’s more, graphene is also great at absorbing sudden impact. Researchers have found it to be 10x stronger than steel at dissipating kinetic energy, like that given off when a bullet strikes body armor. This could revolutionize soldiers’ armor, because of graphene’s unprecedented ability to distribute the impact over a large area. Researchers have also proposed using it in this way as a covering on spacecrafts to mitigate damage from orbital debris. That’s one tough nanomaterial!