Graphene is a biodegradable substance composed of pure carbon, a honeycomb structured one atom thick sheet packed with stupendous opportunities. Recent studies explored its potential and its amazing properties may soon help revolutionize the day-to-day technology. For instance, graphene-built supercapacitors can charge and discharge hundred to thousand times faster than conventional batteries. Antennas built of graphene will enable surprisingly fast terabit wireless downloads. Provided its photovoltaic potential, it can be used to build next generation solar cells, far efficient than those currently in use.
German chemist Hanns-Peter Boehm, who pioneered graphene research, coined the term for the first time as combination of Graphite and suffix -ene. Physicists at the University of Manchester and the Institute for Microelectronics Technology, Chernogolovka, Russia, were first to isolate individual graphene planes by using adhesive tape in 2004. Thereafter, startling discoveries by physicists evoked exponential interest among science enthusiasts. The Nobel Prize in Physics for 2010 "for groundbreaking experiments regarding the two-dimensional material graphene" was awarded to Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov at the University of Manchester .
Graphene for ultra-fast data transfer ratesImagine backing up all data in your PC's hard disk - those HD movies, music collections and whatnot you have stuffed in there, to another system,wireless-ly, within a few seconds! Sounds too good to be true, but graphene might make that possible. Theoretically, antennas built using graphene can transfer data at rate of up to 100 terabits per second, researchers at Georgia tech calculated recently. Ian Akyildiz, director of the broadband wireless networking laboratory at Georgia Tech said,
“It’s a gigantic volume of bandwidth. Nowadays, if you try to copy everything from one computer to another wirelessly, it takes hours. If you have this, you can do everything in one second—boom.”
Using graphene antenna, speculated data transfer rates are of one terabit per second at range of about one meter, whereas researchers claim these will inflate at shorter distances, say at a few centimeters you will be able to transfer data at rate of 100 terabits per second. Graphene has almost no resistance in comparison to silicon, for electrons move through it 50 to 500 times faster than silicon. And that's not all of it, graphene antennas can also be used for faster wireless connections between nanoscale components on chips, given they can be built at micro-scale. This might make metal wire antennas currently in use obsolete one day.
Georgia tech researchers are looking forward to build a prototype within a year, reported technologyreview.
Graphene supercapacitors as replacement of conventional batteriesGadgets are getting smaller and so are technologies associated, but energy-storage units - the batteries and capacitors seem to have lagged behind. Chemical batteries currently in use charge slow and discharge pretty fast, a problem faced by us all. As a solution to that problem, UCLA researchers have now come up with graphene-built super-capacitors to keep up with this miniaturization revolution. Surprisingly, these devices can charge and discharge a hundred to a thousand times faster than standard batteries, can be manufactured easily and readily integrated into small devices. As graphene is just an atom thick, it is perfectly suitable for circuits as miniaturized as they can get.
Posted in December 2012, following video features Richard Kaner, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and Maher El-Kady, a graduate student in Kaner's laboratory talking about their findings:
What's interesting is that researchers were able to fabricate micro super-capacitors with a consumer-grade DVD burner and they did it rather quickly. With such an easy and cost-effective fabrication method, mass production of these super-capacitors can be made possible and at cheaper rates as compared to current prices. El-Kady explains,
"Traditional methods for the fabrication of micro-supercapacitors involve labor-intensive lithographic techniques that have proven difficult for building cost-effective devices, thus limiting their commercial application. Instead, we used a consumer-grade LightScribe DVD burner to produce graphene micro-supercapacitors over large areas at a fraction of the cost of traditional devices. Using this technique, we have been able to produce more than 100 micro-supercapacitors on a single disc in less than 30 minutes, using inexpensive materials."
Graphene supercapacitors will certainly sort out problems we face when batteries in our gadgets go down, be it our cellphones or electric cars. Not to forget the surprisingly low charging time required. Additionally, it is not only biodegradable, but also compostable; against conventional batteries that consist of toxic chemicals.
Graphene for efficient solar cellsRecently, researchers demonstrated graphene's photovoltaic potential. It is notably efficient at generating electrons upon absorbing light and hence is a suitable candidate for next generation light sensors and solar cells.
Traditionally, materials being used for photovoltaic power generation are silicon and gallium arsenide. On absorption of light, their photon to electron conversion ration is 1:1. Whereas, a single photon contains more energy than one electron; implying much of the solar energy being lost as heat.
Researchers found that for each photon absorbed, graphene generates multiple electrons capable of driving current. This implies that graphene can be used to manufacture photovoltaic devices more efficient than those currently in use. Silicon cells have a theoretical efficiency limit of around 30 percent whereas solar cells made of graphene might have a theoretical limit of over 60 percent. Findings of the study were published in journal Nature physics.
Although these startling discoveries might not find practical application anytime soon and researchers are yet to discover its limitations and possible flaws, one day graphene may very well revolutionize solar energy industry for the good of mankind, facilitate us with supercapacitors and make ultra-high wireless data transfer rates possible.
Sources include: Wikipedia,UCLA,Technologyreview
Featured image: Wikimedia commons
The ideal crystalline structure of graphene is a hexagonal grid.