Article last updated on: May 04, 2017

Chips and processors

Graphene’s excellent conductivity, along with other properties, makes it particularly exciting for use in various computing technologies to improve their speed and efficiency. More and more research is done in this field, that shows that graphene and other 2D materials will eventually become the “new silicon”. In addition to improving the speed and efficiency of mobile devices, graphene may also enable light and slim devices like smartwatches, wearables and other accessories.

Samsung graphene transistor photo

Graphene does not have a bandgap, which means that it cannot be readily used to make transistors. However, there are many ways to open a bandgap in graphene—by using graphene ribbons, doping it, using bi-layer graphene and more. It is also possible to build logic gates using graphene based on negative resistance, without opening a bandgap.

Recent years have brought massive investments in graphene-based electronics research, at universities and research institutes, as well as in large corporations like IBM, Intel and Samsung. The electronics may present a huge opportunity for graphene use, but in any case, the time frame is of at least 5-10 years before any graphene-based electronics reach commercialization.

Graphene can also be used as a conductive material in electronic devices, besides transistors—for example making fast electron-light interconnectors between electronic devices and light wave devices (such as fiber optics and photonic chips).

Graphene and sensors

Sensors detect events that occur in the physical environment (like light, heat, motion, moisture, pressure, and more), and respond with an output. Graphene and sensors are a natural combination, as graphene’s large surface-to-volume ratio, unique optical properties, excellent electrical conductivity, high carrier mobility and density, high thermal conductivity and many other attributes can be greatly beneficial for sensor functions.

Modern mobile phones are loaded with a myriad of sensors. Accelerometers detect the orientation of the phone and gyroscopes add an additional dimension to the information supplied by the accelerometer by tracking rotation or twist; Digital compasses are usually based on a sensor called magnetometer that provides mobile phones with a simple orientation in relation to the Earth's magnetic field, Barometers assist the GPS chip inside the device by delivering altitude data, and of course there are also sensors for fingerprints, light and proximity sensors, and many more.

Graphene will enable sensors that are smaller and lighter - providing endless design possibilities. They will also be more sensitive and able to detect smaller changes in matter, work more quickly and eventually even be less expensive than traditional sensors.

Thermal management

Graphene is the world's best heat conductor, which enables many interesting heat management applications. Among these are heat conducting coatings, heat dissipation films and sinks and in addition, all sorts of novel uses and products that take advantage of graphene's unique properties. Such thermal management materials are critical for current and next generation devices

Graphene has many advantages to offer to this substantial market, and the technology is quite mature. Some products are already entering the market, like thermal foils that can be used for the technology beneath devices' screens to conduct heat away from internal electronic components and batteries to help maintain optimal performance.

Graphene-enhanced composite materials

Composite materials are materials formed by combining two or more materials with different properties to produce an end material with unique characteristics. Composite materials have many advantages, as they can be made to be lightweight, strong, corrosion and heat resistant, flexible, transparent and more according to specific needs. They are quite ubiquitous, used in many industries, like aerospace, sports equipment, automotive components, building materials, medical utilities and more.

Graphene’s myriad of attributes can be used to make extraordinary composites. The presence of graphene can enhance the conductivity and strength of bulk materials and help create composites with superior qualities. Graphene can also be added to metals, polymers and ceramics to create composites that are conductive and resistant to heat and pressure. In mobile phones, graphene composites can be used to make light, flexible and durable casings.

Printed antennae and conductive inks

Conductive inks contain components that provide the function of conductivity. Many conductive inks are offered on the market, to meet the demands of many applications: electronics, sensors, antennae, touch screens, printed heaters and more. Thanks to its high charge carrier mobility, superlative thermal and chemical stability and intrinsic flexibility, graphene is a natural choice for use in inks, for applications like thin-film transistors (TFTs) and printed electronics. Graphene inks expand the possibilities for applications such as printed electronics, specifically printed antennae for mobile phones.

Further reading