Graphene Will Change Just about Everything Technological Advancement

Cape Times (South Africa), February 7, 2014 | Go to article overview

Graphene Will Change Just about Everything Technological Advancement


BYLINE: Keith Bryer

Technology has been under attack for years. It is no longer seen as the vanguard of progress, but as its nemesis. The fault is the general assault on free markets by intellectuals but the 21st century is already showing signs that they may need new arguments.

The reason new anti-technology thinking needs revision is a recent scientific and increasingly technological triumph that is set to change the way of, well, just about everything.

It's called graphene. It was discovered in 2004 by Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, two scientists from Manchester University in England. It won them a Nobel prize in 2010.

How did they do it? They applied sticky tape to a block of graphite, pulling away a layer of graphene. Since then far easier and better ways of doing it have come along.

Outside the scientific community few know of graphene. It has truly remarkable properties. It is one atom thick. Despite this, it is the world's strongest material, harder than diamond and 100 times tougher than steel. It is also a better conductor of electricity than copper.

That's right. It's one atom thick - in effect two-dimensional - having length and width but no depth, so thin it is almost invisible. Strong as it is, graphene can stretch like rubber. It doesn't corrode. It's immune to acid and alkaline.

Graphene can be woven into a fine web rather like a super-fine sieve, and there are so many thousands of other potential uses for it that it boggles the mind.

Take uploading to or downloading from the internet. Huge amounts of data could take seconds. Your cellphone would also charge phenomenally fast.

Everything now constructed with carbon fibre will be thousands of times lighter and much, much stronger as well. Airplanes made with graphene would be lighter and more fuel efficient.

Pollution scares such as the leaks into the sea at Fukushima? No longer. Graphene is so fine it could scoop it all up.

Think of a water filter so finely constructed that it could sieve out salts. Then consider the ocean. We would never ever run out of clean water. We could even clean salt-damaged soil. …

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