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article imageHow close is the new graphene wave?

By Tim Sandle     Jul 11, 2018 in Science
Graphene is a relatively new material with many interesting properties. However, despite a range of science papers explaining application possibilities, the widespread use of graphene has yet to be realized.
Graphene is a remarkable material: a two-dimensional form of carbon that is very strong, lightweight, conductive and transparent. It is one of the strongest and most versatile materials on Earth.
The possibilities of graphene were recently debated in a discussion hosted on The Verge. For the discussion, The Verge spoke to Joseph Meany, an analytical chemist who is researching some of the benefits of graphene; and with science writer Phillip Ball, who is skeptical about what graphene will actually be able to do and when it is likely to appear.
Part of the discussion is featured in the following video:
Graphene promises many things, according to different science groups who are investigating the material, since the material's discovery in 2004. These range from bulletproof armor and space elevators; and with improves medicine, and a faster running Internet.
Graphene research
In terms of medical applications, a new patch has been developed composed of graphene studded with gold particles. With this, when pH and temperature hit a trigger, then enzymes in the sensor can assess glucose levels and this can trigger needles, containing a drug, to be released just beneath the surface of the skin. Graphene is even being used for a newly designed filter for desalination and the early results are showing reduced energy costs, as well as effective salt removal.
To add to this, there is the use of graphene as synthetic skin for a new generation of robots; using graphene to assist with the construction of lighter aircraft; and for using the material to improve the speed and efficiency of electronic devices. Many of the potential advantages of graphene have been discussed on Digital Journal’s science pages.
Media hype?
The problem is that for over ten years the public-at-large have been presented with these possibilities and yet very few have appeared in a form familiar to the everyday person. Assessing the debate, this is probably because of over-hype in terms of timelines. While the allotrope of carbon is being tested out within the fields of consumer and medicinal electronics, the experiments designed to show safety and efficacy take time.
Too often, either in to purse research grants or through the output if university PR departments, headlines from scientific research are posted and these often give the impression that discoveries are closer to fruition than they actually are. Take for example the smartphone. Most of the technology for the smartphone was invented in the 1960s; it just took to the 2000s for all the necessary testing., ways to lower costs, and other time-to-market logistics to be addressed. An important challenge is that manufacturing defect-free graphene remains too expensive to make on a large scale.
Graphene products on sale
For the typical consumer, some graphene based products are already on sale. These include the Xiaomi Mi Pro HD earphones. These contain a graphene diaphragm enabling faster sound transmission' and better higher-res audio. There’s also a forthcoming LED light bulb containing a filament coated in graphene to increase its life span. Next the consumer is likely to see smartphones with fully flexible screens.
Looking ahead
However, the medical breakthroughs promised will take considerably longer due to the necessary regulations around clinical trials. Moreover, graphene’s full impact, in tough flexible electronics and wearable devices, remains years away. So, the graphene revolution is coming, it will change a range of different fields, it just needs more time – just wait for the next decade.
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