We touched on the impressive properties of graphene in yesterday’s blog. The world's thinnest material is set to revolutionize almost every part of everyday life. It’s ultra-light, 200 times stronger than steel and incredibly flexible.
So where will graphene take us? How will it change our world? In today’s blog, we will explore how it could play an important role in many products and processes in the future.
BOOST INTERNET SPEEDS
A new study from researchers at the University of Bath and Exeter has discovered that graphene could be used in telecommunications to dramatically accelerate internet speeds by up to a hundred times.
Data runs through long stretches of fibers before it reaches your Internet browser. An optical switch is responsible for converting this data from lower-frequency infrared range to visible light. The faster it can be converted into light, the faster the data can reach your browser.
These switches must contain a semiconductor. The researchers have been using graphene as the semiconductor, and it has increased the optical switch’s response time to 100 times faster than the trillionth of a second it takes with current semiconductors.
Not only can graphene be used to speed up our Internet browsers, it could also clean contaminated water. An international team of researchers have created a school of tiny microbots, each smaller than the width of a human hair, that are capable of removing lead particles from water.
CNET describes the process as follows:
“The robots are shaped like tiny tubes, in three layers. Graphene oxide on the outside absorbs lead particles from the water. The middle layer is nickel, which allows external control of the robots using a magnetic field. The inner layer is platinum, which gives the robots self propulsion by adding hydrogen peroxide to the water. This interacts with the platinum, which decomposes the hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen, propelling the microbot forwards.”
The team has published a paper on their findings in the journal Nano Letters. In it, they claim that their microbots can reduce the amount of lead in water from 1,000 parts per billion to just 50 parts per billion in just one hour.
A team of engineers at Washington University in St. Louis has published similar research available online in Advanced Materials. They have found a way to use graphene oxide sheets to transform dirty water into drinking water. The new approach combines bacteria-produced cellulose and graphene oxide to form a bi-layered biofoam.
INFRARED NIGHT VISION
One of the most innovative uses for graphene is being developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). According to their new study, graphene could be used to bring infrared night vision to our laptops, smartphone and even our cars.
The team created a thermal sensor using use a square piece of graphene and a MEMs micromachine. The graphene-based sensor processes the incoming thermal signal and converts it to electrical signals that are transmitted to the rest of the device.
They say the self-cooling, graphene-based infrared technology could lead to imaging systems that are smaller, flexible and transparent. For example, transparent thermal-imaging technology could be used for windshields. It would provide a night vision view of the surroundings without obscuring the driver’s normal view of the road. There is also the suggestion it could be used for hand and body recognition, which is an area of the automotive industry that is expecting massive growth in the coming years.
Speaking of cars, Briggs Automotive Company (BAC) are trialing graphene in the rear arches of its single seater Mono supercar. BAC say using graphene could mean weight reductions of 20 percent, leading to significant improvements in performance, fuel economy and cost.
The British car maker worked with Haydale Composite Solutions on the trial. They decided to focus on the rear arches because of their size and complexity, and they say this allowed the material and manufacturing process to be thoroughly tested.
These are just some of the exciting developments being produced using graphene. It was only two years ago that Samsung hailed it as the ‘wonder material’ poised to build the next generation of wearable technology. Flexible displays are now a reality, and judging by the research and development taking place in this area, the potential for graphene is limitless.
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