Move over, silicon. Graphene is promising to rewire the world of electronic components.
A Korean lab has developed a new way to grow flaw-free graphene on a large scale, says a recent research paper in Science. This is an important step towards mass manufacturing it for electronics, thus paving the way for thinner, flexible, and wearable smart connected machines, running on a 100x faster Internet.
Moving closer to real world devices
Making an integrated circuit from graphene has been a struggle till now, since it is easily damaged in manufacturing. Sungkyunkwan University’s School of Advanced Materials Science and Engineering and the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT) claim that they can make large sheets of graphene by synthesizing it into a single crystal on a semiconductor.
Samsung is not the only company working to develop graphene. Earlier this year, IBM Research used it to build chips that are 10,000 times better than current options. Several other labs, across the world, are experimenting with the material to create sensors, transistors, and memory storage. The EU, for instance, has committed to investing €1 billion ($1.3 billion) to fund research on graphene between 2013 and 2023.
Strongest material on earth
Discovered in 2004, graphene shot into the limelight when two physicists at the University of Manchester were awarded the Nobel Prize for their experiments with it in 2010.
It is the strongest and thinnest material on earth. It is 200 times stronger than steel, yet six times lighter and is one million times thinner than paper. Made up of single layer of carbon atoms bonded together in a repeating pattern of hexagons, it conducts electricity and heat better than any material discovered until now. Supercharging the Industrial Internet Graphene could usher in supercharged quantum computers, flexible smart devices, and electronic clothing. It is a major candidate to replace silicon in computer chips and transistors and could rewire the Industrial Internet with:
- Faster Internet: Graphene promises to create denser and speedier integrated circuits. An optical switch made of a few layers of graphene stacked on top of each other responds to light at a much faster rate and thus transfer data signals faster. Last year, University of Bath and Exter’s Department of Physics discovered that graphene could accelerate the Internet 100 times faster than current speeds.
- Flexible, transparent smart devices: It can accelerate the emergence of electronic devices that are thinner, faster, and cheaper than anything based on silicon. These flexible connected smart devices could change the way technicians, engineers,and workers in field service and maintenance work today. Since graphene is just atom-thin, transparent, and ultra-tough, it has a huge potential in smart displays currently been explored by retailers, fitness companies, and car manufacturers.
- Batteries built into machines: A power cell, developed by Scientists at Vanderbilt, can be integrated directly into the device and would do away with the need for an external battery. This device can store electricity on a silicon surface coated with graphene. Besides instantaneously charging devices like mobile phones, this "silicon supercapacitor" could be integrated into industrial machines in areas that don’t have a reliable power supply.
Once researchers perfect the technique to manufacture graphene in large quantities at a low price, it is bound to supercharge the myriad of smart devices connected to Industrial Internet.