Graphene, a carbon compound discovered in 2004, is now known as one the strongest materials in the world. At only one atom think it is also one of the most lightweight.
Impressively, it has further benefits; it conducts electricity and is water-repellent too.
These qualities make it very attractive for product design, but engineers have had trouble converting it from 2D to 3D applications.
The US Army is so impressed with this microscopic sheet of carbon that they have funded MIT research into graphene microchips – they are hoping to vastly expedite their capacity to process information.
The researchers showed what a flow of an electric current would do to one sheet of graphene. They concluded that a flow of electric current can “exceed the speed of slowed-down light” on the sheet and achieve something comparable to a sonic boom - just with light. They’re calling it: the optic boom.
Marin Soljačić, a professor of physics at MIT, explained: "This conversion is made possible because the electronic speed can approach the light speed in graphene, breaking the ‘light barrier’”. Just as breaking the sound barrier generates a shock wave sound, he says.
In the case of graphene, this leads to the emission of a shock wave of light, in two dimensions. If this research goes any further we may see some movement in a light generation technology to compete with LED technology.
The heat transfer and electric conductibility of graphene has shown that graphene could be utilized to transfer heat from a light-emitting diode (LED), which in turn, would increase its efficiency.
Normal carbon fibre will allow light to pass through it, showing its weak spots, whereas graphene appears utterly void of light. The researchers say their breakthroughs could have significant benefits for electronics technologies. The following photograph is from the Global Cycling Network (GCN), which recently completed a report on graphene.
Wait! Why would cyclists care about graphene?
Cyclists - and some engineers - are very particular about their bikes. Patents for products utilizing graphene are starting to pop up all over the world. The promise of a sturdy, waterproof and lightweight frame is exactly the kind of thing cyclists are into.
A company named Dassi, engineered the world’s first graphene bike frame. The graphene is harvested in the labs of a company named Perpetuus. They are carbon technology specialists, who, according to the GCN, produce the most graphene in the world. They produce 400 tonnes per year.
Based on the GCN report, the engineers at Dassi are hoping to build a graphene bike frame that weighs only 350 grams, and is the more durable than carbon fibre frames. The frames they currently produce are not completely graphene-based.
Dassi’s Graphene Bike Frame
Graphene could also produce the next generation of clean fuel cells for the future powering of automobiles. Graphene purportedly allows protons to pass through it, which allow hydrogen to become isolated. (This is something scientists had been trying to achieve prior to the discovery of graphene.) The result would be clean fuel cells being burned for clean electricity.
Graphene’s chemical makeup, in its two dimensional form, makes it one of the strongest elements in the world today. But, transferring graphene into a three-dimensional material has been the recent focus of engineers. If graphene can successfully be implemented into three-dimensional objects, it could have far-reaching benefits for engineering industries. Researching engineers at MIT have investigated:
David L. Chandler | MIT News Office. "Researchers Discover New Way to Turn Electricity into Light, Using Graphene." MIT News. 13 June 2016. Web. 24 Jan. 2017.
"One of the Strongest Lightweight Materials Known." YouTube. 06 Jan. 2017. Web. 24 Jan. 2017.
Globalcyclingnetwork. "The Next Carbon Fibre? Why Graphene Could Be The Future Of Bikes." YouTube. YouTube, 22 Jan. 2017. Web. 24 Jan. 2017.