The Issue with Graphene

Graphene is a “two-dimensional” structure of carbon atoms.  One explanation is that if you cut a carbon nanotube and unrolled it, you would have graphene.  It properties are unusual compared to bulk properties and many uses have been proposed.  There has been much research conducted and results reported in various scientific publications.  Graphene has a tensile strength that is 100s of times greater than steel and an electrical mobility that is a couple of orders of magnitude than silicon.

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have induced magnetism in graphene while preserving it electronic properties.  This was accomplished by bringing mono-layer graphene into close proximity to a magnetic insulator.  Based on the new properties acquired, it “could lead to new electronic devices” with additional functions. [Ref.1]

Researchers at Rice University have analyzed patterns of graphene, grown via the Rice developed chemical vapor deposition process, and determined that the underlying material predicts the formation of islands of graphene.  The edges of the graphene are important in developing the final electronic properties.  Based on this initial analysis, it should be possible to develop underlying grain boundaries that will provide the desired electrical properties. [2,]  They also have demonstrated that symmetry of the growth provide a means of controlling the development of the properties. [3]

The potential application of graphene-based nanomaterials for wireless communications in the Terahertz band.  The key element in this effort is the development of embedded square and circular rings in a dielectric.  This application could lead to interesting communication applications. [4]

Northwestern researchers have created a process to print 3-D structures using graphene nanoflakes.  This nanoflakes are incorporated into a 3-D printing material and can be employed to develop workable structures.  One issue that was overcome is that high concentrations of nanoflakes make the ink harder to work with and result in structures that are brittle and fragile.  Their process uses a two part solution that has initial quick drying to solidify the structures quickly, while another part provides the flexibility. [5]

A collaborative effort among researchers in Greece, Italy, and Romania has shown the ability to tune a graphene antenna in the microwave region through varying an applied voltage. [6]

Penn State researchers have been investigating think graphene membranes to create better fuel cells.  Their work has demonstrated that naturally occurring defects in graphene allows hydrogen protons to cross the barriers rapidly.  A similar application to water purification is also possible. [7]

CalTech researchers have developed a room temperature process that could be employed in advanced solar cells and LEDs.  This process could provide for the manufacture of larger sizes of graphene that today’s typical millimeter size material.  [8]

All of this is terrific and provides potential for future development.  Graphene was discovered in 2004.  It is now more than ten years later.  We do not have sources for defect-free graphene that can produce hundreds of feet of the material.  In the early days of graphene development, the creation of graphene small segments was difficult and rare.  At some research locations, the graduate students named the individual pieces because they were that rare.  While not rare today, defect-free or defect specific locations of graphene are not available in volume.  That availability of graphene in volume is the issue.  This is where the development is needed to bring this material into manufactured products.

References:

  1. http://www.edn.com/electronics-blogs/tech-edge/4438843/Magnetized-graphene-could–change-the-course-of-human-civilization-?_mc=NL_EDN_EDT_EDN_today_20150311&cid=NL_EDN_EDT_EDN_today_20150311&elq=79e323ad8ccd4929ac06288c37e7ed80&elqCampaignId=22030&elqaid=24735&elqat=1&elqTrackId=fa969d31243c4a5baa51c1ca08afc498
  2. http://semiengineering.com/system-bits-march-17/
  3. http://www.rdmag.com/news/2015/03/symmetry-matters-graphene-growth?et_cid=4466707&et_rid=658352741&type=cta
  4. http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/anp.2014.33010
  5. http://www.rdmag.com/news/2015/05/printing-3-d-graphene-structures-tissue-engineering?et_cid=4580284&et_rid=658352741&type=cta
  6. http://tgtechno.com/nanotechnologyzone/index.php/news/research-news/5510-graphene-enables-tunable-microwave-antenna
  7. http://www.rdmag.com/videos/2015/03/graphene-membrane-could-lead-better-fuel-cells-water-filters?et_cid=4468801&et_rid=658352741&type=cta
  8. http://www.rdmag.com/news/2015/03/cool-process-make-better-graphene?et_cid=4469906&et_rid=658352741&type=cta

About Walt

I have been involved in various aspects of nanotechnology since the late 1970s. My interest in promoting nano-safety began in 2006 and produced a white paper in 2007 explaining the four pillars of nano-safety. I am a technology futurist and is currently focused on nanoelectronics, single digit nanomaterials, and 3D printing at the nanoscale. My experience includes three startups, two of which I founded, 13 years at SEMATECH, where I was a Senior Fellow of the technical staff when I left, and 12 years at General Electric with nine of them on corporate staff. I have a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, an MBA from James Madison University, and a B.S. in Physics from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

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