Graphene is one of a handful of advanced materials that when successfully manufactured on a large scale and integrated will transform many areas of industry including (but not limited to) electronics, construction, and optics over the next several decades.
Graphene is a single-atom thick sheet of sp2-bonded carbon atoms that make up a hexagonally closed packed two-dimensional lattice. From this description, it is clear to see that this material offers a very high surface to volume ratio. It will have very different in-plane properties compared to out of plane properties. It is easy to guess it is very strong (in-plane tensile strength is 200 times that of steel). It is basically an unzipped carbon nanotube.
Graphene is a material with a unique combination of properties. These include electrical properties such as high electron mobility (15,000cm2V-1s-1) which is nearly temperature independent from 10K to 100K. It has a sheet resistivity that is less than silver (10-6W) and yet is still transparent at visible wavelengths. Optical properties include a voltage tunable band gap and the nonlinear Kerr effect. Notable thermal properties include an in-plane conductivity similar to diamond (1000W/mK). Mechanical properties include a tensile modulus of 1TPa. It can also be stretched at 20% of its length and still maintain structural integrity.
This remarkable material has attracted much interest in both research and commercial sectors. Currently, over 200 small and medium sized companies are working on the manufacturing of graphene (both bottom-up and top-down approaches) and its integration into products. A few applications of interest include:
- flexible electronics
- conductive inks
- super lubricant
- hydrophobic coatings
- high frequency integrated circuits
According to a Frost and Sullivan March 2012 report titled “Advances in Graphene Technologies – Emerging Business Opportunities”, manufacturing of large sheets of high quality graphene is a key bottle neck for its integration into the electronics industry. They estimate that this should be achieved in four years (if not sooner).
Collaborative efforts between companies and academia have developed and are seen as key in making progress in manufacturing challenges. These include the Graphene Flagship and the Korean Graphene Hub.
It is estimated that graphene-enhanced products will be the first to reach the market and that graphene-enabled products will follow about a decade later.