Ever the shape shifter, graphene has found a new form with which to revolutionize the design and production process of wearable electronics. We’re talking about foam, but not the kind you might be familiar with. Recently patented by Graphene 3D Lab Inc., graphene flex foam is a multilayer, freestanding three dimensional foam and elastomer composite that is super lightweight and conducive.
The most notable aspect of the latest graphene breakthrough is its flexibility. Elena Polyakova, Co-CEO of Graphene 3D, is confident in flex foam’s versatile applications: “Any company interested in a freestanding, stable, ultralight, highly conductive material that can flex with their product and fit into any space, will be interested in this innovation.” A highly porous structure allows the foam to flex, fold and fit into tight spaces, which is sure to have many applications in wearable technology and beyond. Here are four ways we can expect to see graphene flex foam put to use in the near future:
1. Lithium-Ion Batteries
According to Daniel Stolyarov, Co-CEO of Graphene 3D, “Graphene Flex Foam is an excellent substrate candidate in the manufacture of electrodes of lithium-ion batteries.” The main form of batteries powering a wide array of electronics including watches, lithium ion batteries have long been overdue for a powerful upgrade that flex foam can provide.
2. Wearable Electronic Sensors
Wearable electronics have only just scratched the surface of their true potential. Because smartwatches and other wearables need to be super flexible, their form has so far been dictated by the limits of less capable materials than graphene. With flex foam, we can expect to see the design process of wearable tech completely freed up. The electronics, sensors, and conductive properties that wearable tech requires will be perfectly addressed by graphene in a flexible, freestanding and stable foam form.
3. Shock Absorber for Phone Displays
Scientists at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru have successfully demonstrated how graphene flex foam can be used for stronger phone displays. A miniature shock absorber made of flex foam could help keep phones and laptops from shattering.“Composed of an extremely thin layer of graphene, its density is only 0.54 grams per cubic cm, as compared to 7.87 and 2.7 gram per cubic cm of iron and aluminium respectively,” says Abha Mishra, assistant professor, Department of Applied Physics. Flex foam can also withstand more cycles of operation than traditional shock absorbers.
4. Deadly Gas Sensor
Nitrogen dioxide is one of the main causes of pollution in the atmosphere, and this same research team has discovered a way to use graphene flex foam to detect dangerous levels of the gas that could have life-saving applications. “The graphene-based sensors work on the principle that charge transfer takes place between graphene foams and adsorbed gas molecules. This changes the resistance of the foams and hence their electrical conductivity (how easily current can flow). By measuring these changes in electrical conductivity,it can be easily correlated with the levels of ambient nitrogen dioxide,” explains Abha Mishra, assistant professor, Department of Applied Physics.