Article last updated on: Jul 12, 2020

Graphene is a one-atom-thick sheet of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb-like pattern. Graphene is considered to be the world's thinnest, strongest and most conductive material - of both electricity and heat. All of these properties are exciting researchers and businesses around the world - as graphene has the potential to revolutionize entire industries - in the fields of electricity, conductivity, energy generation, batteries, sensors and more.

Mechanical strength

Graphene is the world's strongest material, and can be used to enhance the strength of other materials. Dozens of researchers have demonstrated that adding even a trace amount of graphene to plastics, metals or other materials can make these materials much stronger - or lighter (as you can use a smaller amount of material to achieve the same strength).

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Such graphene-enhanced composite materials can find uses in aerospace, building materials, mobile devices, and many other applications.

Thermal applications

Graphene is the most heat conductive found to date. As graphene is also strong and light, it means that it is a great material for making heat-spreading solutions, such as heat sinks or heat dissipation films. This could be useful in both microelectronics (for example to make LED lighting more efficient and longer lasting) and also in larger applications - for example thermal foils for mobile devices. Huawei's latest smartphones, for example, have adopted graphene-based thermal films.

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Energy storage

Since graphene is the world's thinnest material, it also extremely high surface-area to volume ratio. This makes graphene a very promising material for use in batteries and supercapacitors. Graphene may enable batteries and supercapacitors (and even fuel-cells) that can store more energy - and charge faster, too.

Graphene battery advantages imageThe advantages of graphene batteries

Coatings ,sensors, electronics and more

Graphene has a lot of promise for additional applications: anti-corrosion coatings and paints, efficient and precise sensors, faster and efficient electronics, flexible displays, efficient solar panels, faster DNA sequencing, drug delivery, and more.

Graphene is such a great and basic building block that it seems that any industry can benefit from this new material. Time will tell where graphene will indeed make an impact - or whether other new materials will be more suitable.

The latest Graphene Application news:

Rice team modifies laser-induced graphene process to create micron-scale patterns in photoresist

A Rice University team has modified its laser-induced graphene technique to make high-resolution, micron-scale patterns of the conductive material for consumer electronics and other applications. Laser-induced graphene (LIG), introduced in 2014 by Rice chemist James Tour, involves burning away everything except carbon from polymers or other materials, leaving the carbon atoms to reconfigure themselves into films of characteristic hexagonal graphene. The process employs a commercial laser that “writes” graphene patterns into surfaces that to date have included wood, paper and even food.

Rice lab uses laser-induced graphene process to create micron-scale patterns in photoresist image

The new version writes fine patterns of graphene into photoresist polymers, light-sensitive materials used in photolithography and photoengraving. Baking the film increases its carbon content, and subsequent lasing solidifies the robust graphene pattern, after which unlased photoresist is washed away.

Tirupati Graphite develops 'ground-breaking' graphene-aluminium (Al-Gr) composite

Tirupati Graphite has announced that its research center has developed a 'ground-breaking' graphene-aluminium (Al-Gr) composite, which reportedly exhibits significantly higher conductivity and strength properties over aluminium and could be used as a substitute for copper.

The specialist graphite and graphene producer said it was engaged with potential end users including a FTSE100 company for the composite’s potential use replacing copper in thermal, power and propulsion systems, providing significant environmental advantages owing to reduced weight.

New method to produce graphene nanoribbons could promote use in telecommunications applications

University of Wisconsin–Madison researchers have fabricated graphene into the smallest ribbon structures to date, using a method that is said to make scaling-up simple. In tests with these tiny ribbons, the scientists discovered they were closing in on the properties they needed to move graphene toward usefulness in telecommunications equipment.

Flexible, easy-to-scale nanoribbons move graphene toward use in tech applications imageImage credit: University of Wisconsin−Madison

“Previous research suggested that to be viable for telecommunication technologies, graphene would need to be structured prohibitively small over large areas, (which is) a fabrication nightmare,” says Joel Siegel, a UW–Madison graduate student in physics professor Victor Brar’s group and co-lead author of the study. “In our study, we created a scalable fabrication technique to make the smallest graphene ribbon structures yet and found that with modest further reductions in ribbon width, we can start getting to telecommunications range.”

Graphene oxide gives a boost to new intranasal flu vaccine

Researchers at Georgia State University and Emory University have developed an intranasal influenza vaccine using recombinant hemagglutinin (HA), a protein found on the surface of influenza viruses, as the antigen component of the vaccine.

They also created a two-dimensional nanomaterial (polyethyleneimine-functionalized graphene oxide nanoparticles) and found that it displayed potent adjuvant (immunoenhancing) effects on influenza vaccines delivered intranasally.

Viritech's future hydrogen-powered hypercar to use “graphene-reinforced hydrogen pressure vessels”

A British engineering company called Viritech is working on an ambitious hydrogen-powered hypercar. Dubbed the Apricale, it is being designed primarily as a technical showcase for the company’s hydrogen fuel-cell technology and aims to demonstrate the advantages of hydrogen vehicles over electric powertrains. The hypercar will be sold in limited numbers for around £1.5 million (~$2 million).

Viritech's Apricale graphene-enhanced hydrogen car image

In order to lower the weight of the Apricale’s hardware, it features graphene-reinforced hydrogen pressure vessels. It was explained that the hydrogen storage tanks form part of the structure of the chassis to reduce weight and cost.