Over the centuries, humans have developed an amazing array of skills in design and construction. We’ve discovered how to support huge structures on small bases, create machinery that can handle incredible amounts of wear and force, and fight back against the elements with the systems that feed and transport us.
But much of this innovation has been built out of a fairly limited number of materials. Our earliest ancestors worked with stone and wood, but soon they were in lead, brass, and iron. Eventually, there was aluminum and stainless steel, along with a few other widely-used metals. Since then, most innovation has been in engineering more than in materials, but that is about to change.
Enter graphene. Graphene is an amazing material. Composed of pure carbon, it’s just one atom thick, yet it has 200 times the strength of steel. It’s a good conductor of electricity and heat and does not corrode. It’s the stuff of science fiction, but it’s real, and it’s already being put to work.
The potential applications for graphene are endless. As the industry continues to expand its existing uses, it’s also developing new ideas for the use of graphene. Exploring that potential is overwhelming and holds promise for products that could save lives, improve the environment, and build economies.
Items with small dimensions have always been considered fragile. Things like circuit boards and other electronics had to walk a thin line between durability and functionality.
Graphene products like CVD graphene conquer that problem. They can conduct energy efficiently while still proving incredibly resistant to impacts, torsion, and compression. This opens the door to many different opportunities such as digital automation of functions previously considered too destructive for electronic equipment.
Think of deep-sea locations and areas of extreme temperatures and you’ll figure out quickly why everything from telecommunications to firefighting could make use of graphene.
Nearly Indestructible Assembly
One of the greatest economic threats to the United States is its crumbling infrastructure. Everything from power lines to railroad tracks is in disrepair, and funds are limited for renovation. Each passing day presents the threat of a new disaster, with too many already in the books.
While steel will remain a strong and reliable material for many uses, its versatility will be compounded by the ability of graphene to provide incredibly strong, thin support for areas of focused weight, torsion, and corrosion. The relationship between steel’s familiarity and affordability coupled with a strategic use of graphene poses lots of potential for bridges, buildings, and vehicles.
Power In Its Thinness
Strength has always been directly correlated to size: Simply put, bigger is stronger. And that thinking developed out of our use of wood, concrete, and steel, for which the relationship is accurate.
But graphene turns all that upside-down. It’s incredible thinness will permit it to be used in spaces too small to accommodate other materials, and its light weight will overcome many restrictions as well. The possibilities are endless, with graphene adding strength, durability, and conductivity to tiny places that were never thought possible.
Like any revolutionary development, the main limitation to graphene right now is that we don’t know what we don’t know. We have been so trapped in our thinking by the characteristics of traditional materials that it will take many years to begin to absorb how powerful graphene can be in electronics, construction, manufacturing, and countless other roles. One thing is certain, though, and that is that graphene represents a fundamental shift in what we can build and do, on a scale we’ve probably never seen before.