Graphene ‘Super Material’ Turns Sights to High-tech Industry

January 2, 2013 3:09 am Last Updated: January 6, 2013 11:29 am

Lightning-resistant airplanes and scratch-resistant wind turbines are on the list for upcoming experiments on how graphene can improve current technology.

Graphene sheets are made from pure carbon and come in one-atom-thick sheets that resemble grids of tiny honeycombs. According to a press release, it is “one of the thinnest, lightest, strongest and most conductive materials to have been discovered…”

Graphene has high electrical conductivity and is highly transparent, so researchers are currently looking into its practical uses. And to find these uses, scientists at the Imperial College London will get 4.5 million pounds (approximately $7.36 million) to investigate how graphene can improve high-tech industries.

“The new funding will enable us to bring graphene a step closer to useful applications, by helping us explore the physical and mechanical properties of this remarkable material, as well as its behavior at high frequency,” said Professor Neil Alford, deputy principal for research in Imperial’s Faculty of Engineering, in a press release.

U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne MP, also announced 21.5 million pounds ($35.09 million) of capital investment on Dec. 26 to commercialize graphene.

The material used to be ridiculously expensive, but recent breakthroughs in its production have lowered costs and made its use feasible. It was discovered by Manchester University scientists Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov in 2004, and won them the Nobel Prize in 2010.

One of the projects, led by Professor Eduardo Saiz, from the U.K. Department of Materials, intends to reduce the cost of graphene even more by using liquids that contain suspended graphene particles.

Other research projects will look into the electrical properties of graphene. According to the press release, the hope is that “new medical scanning technology may be developed as a result of how graphene responds to high frequency electromagnetic waves, from microwave to terahertz frequencies and all the way to the wavelengths of visible light.”