My following article below was originally published by SERIOUS WONDER:
Graphene has always been something that sci-fi writers have envisioned throughout history. When it was finally developed in 2003, how we conceived both weight and strength in objects changed forever. Despite its very low weight, this one-atom-thick transparent sheet of pure carbon is nearly a hundred times stronger than steel! To add onto its already wondrous qualities, graphene also has the capability of conducting heat and electricity at great efficiency.
The current price of graphene, however, is at around $1,200 a piece. To address this problem, PhD candidate Shou-En Zhu has developed a new method of high-quality graphene production that will reduce the cost to just over a dollar.
“Now a single piece of graphene costs about €1,000. We expect to reduce the price by a factor of thousand to about €1 per piece in a few years.” – Shou-En Zhu
For most developers of graphene, the most common method of development is via exfoliation, which in itself takes up to around 10 hours. For Shou-En Zhu, however, his new method processes a low-pressure mixture of hydrogen, methane, and argon over a sheet of copper at a temperature of 1,000 °C. As a result, the copper strips the hydrogen from the methane, leaving behind pure carbon that perfectly aligns with other carbon atoms into an endless sheet of graphene. This entire process only takes up an hour, as opposed to other developers’ 10-hour-long exfoliation process.
To test out its effectiveness, in comparison to previously developed graphene, Shou-En Zhu and his colleagues demonstrated that, by freely moving the electrons around it, their millimeter-sized piece of graphene was, in fact, a crystal. Once they applied a perpendicular magnetic field to the graphene, thereby pushing the electrons into circular trajectories without scattering, they then proved, beyond a shadow of doubt, that they developed flawless synthetic graphene.
The development of graphene has led us into a smorgasbord of innovative applications. The only problem was the fact that it was so expensive to develop. Now that we’ve developed a new method of graphene production, in the next few years expect graphene to be used for your smartphone screens, photovoltaic solar cells, and fuel cell membranes for batteries. Not to mention the even wilder ideas, such as graphene skin for advanced prosthetic limbs and graphene condoms!