Harder than diamond, stronger than steel.

Posted: 03/24/2012 in New Technology, Science, Suttronix Updates, Wordpress
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The ideal crystalline structure of graphene is...

The ideal crystalline structure of graphene is a hexagonal grid. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Imagine a material that is just one atom thick, 300 times stronger than steel, harder than diamond, a fantastic conductor of heat and electricity and super-flexible to boot.This might sound like the stuff of science fiction, but believe it or not, such a material already exists.The name of this supermaterial is graphene and it’s one of the most exciting prospects in science today.In the latest graphene-related research – released last week – researchers from Vanderbilt University found a way to overcome one of graphene’s most problematic flaws – a high sensitivity to external influences which causes graphene-based devices to operate more slowly than they should.The researchers found a way to dampen external influences on the graphene, and could then observe electrons moving through their graphene three times faster than was previously possible.This development could pave the way for a new generation of graphene-based devices including touch screens and solar panels.More on the uses of graphene in a moment, but first: what is graphene?Quite simply, graphene is a new structural form or ‘allotrope’ of carbon – one of the most versatile elements in the universe. It was discovered in 2004 by Russian-born physicists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, who jointly received the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics for their troubles.Graphene is a single, flat layer of carbon atoms packed tightly into a two-dimensional honeycomb arrangement. The in-plane two-dimensional carbon-carbon bonds in graphene are the strongest bonds known to science. It is these bonds that give graphene its unbelievable mechanical strength and flexibility.Graphene is essentially a single layer of graphite, the material found in pencil ‘lead’. When you draw on paper with a pencil, weakly bound graphene sheets in the graphite spread over your paper like a pack of cards.But because graphene is so thin – the thickness of a single carbon atom – it is extremely difficult to see. This is one of the reasons it took researchers so long to find graphene sheets among thicker stacks of graphite.Despite being so thin, graphene is an excellent conductor of electricity. Electrons flow through graphene with almost zero electrical resistance. This unusual property, and the fact graphene is nearly invisible, makes it an ideal material for the transparent electrodes used in computer displays and solar cells.While scientists have known about graphene since 2004, it was in 2010 that researchers from Samsung and Sungkyunkwan University took a critical step in developing the commercial applications of this material.

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via Harder than diamond, stronger than steel Science Alert.

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