If you’ve been anywhere near a science journal over the past decade or so, you’ll have come across some form of superlative about graphene – the two-dimensional wonder material that promises to transform everything from computing to biomedicine.
There’s a lot of hype about graphene’s applications, thanks to a handful of remarkable properties. It’s 1 million times thinner than a human hair but 200 times stronger than steel. It’s flexible but can act as a perfect barrier, and is an excellent conductor of electricity. Put all of that together and you have a material with a multitude of potentially revolutionary applications.
What is graphene?
Graphene is carbon, but in a one-atom thick honeycomb lattice. If you reach back into your old chemistry lessons, you’ll remember materials composed entirely of carbon can have drastically different properties, depending on how its atoms are arranged (different allotropes). The graphite in your pencil lead, for example, is soft and dark compared to the hard and transparent diamond in your engagement ring. Human-made carbon structures are no different; the ball-shaped Buckminsterfullerene acts differently to the coiled arrangements of carbon nanotubes.
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