Graphene: The Super Material
What is Graphene?
Graphene is the material of the future. Derived from Graphite, it is the world’s first 2D material and it has amazing properties. Graphene is only a single atom deep but is a million times thinner than a strand of hair and 200 times stronger than a piece of steal.
What does this mean? It can be utilised in a variety of products and technologies. By either stacking it together, mixing it with other materials and liquids or just using it as a single layer, its potential is still being explored.
How will it be used?
Graphene’s structure makes it flexible, durable, conductive and transparent. This means it can be applied to a range products. This will benefit numerous public sectors such as healthcare, defence and transport.
It is already being utilised to make durable sportswear, and its electrical and thermal properties make it ideal for lightbulbs and electronic devices.
Its properties are being developed for use in transportation. Graphene-based materials can be harnessed in the production of aircrafts and vehicles. This will make aircrafts and vehicles more lightweight and robust which could potentially result in shorter travel times.
In the future, Graphene will be used for water purification by perfecting filtration systems. Current methods of distilling water are time consuming and costly. Graphene-based filters can be mass produced and are easy to use. The strength of the material will also prevent any contaminants slipping through the filter.
With the advance of 3D printing, Graphene-based products will be produced more efficiently. This will radically improve how we manufacture products, such as batteries, that can be tailored to specific electronic devices.
The Clean Growth strategy
The UK is world leading in the production of Graphene. The material was first isolated in 2004 by researchers at the University of Manchester, who were later awarded the Nobel Prize for their work.
Innovate UK is funding research in Graphene as part of its Clean Growth strategy. This initiative is working towards tackling climate change both nationally and internationally. It is pushing for further innovative research in the use of Graphene to help the environment.
The government have granted a £460 million fund to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. They hope to use Graphene in the conditioning and containment of nuclear waste. This will reduce the presence of radioactive gases in the environment. Graphene used in supercapacitors will improve battery life and performance and store energy in nuclear detection devises.
Graphene can also be used in the production of wind turbines. If the propellers are made from Graphene-based materials, they will move faster and will generate more renewable energy.
The impact on the economy
The global market for Graphene-based products has an estimated worth of £500m by 2020. The UK economy will benefit greatly from its production and investing in its development will increase the national income.
Products made from Graphene will increase the efficiency of existing UK sectors and will open up new markets. It will become an essential component of all new machinery and technology, making it a staple in the UK and world economy.
Scientists haven’t yet realised the full potential of Graphene. For more information on the Clean Growth Strategy, subscribe to Innovate UK’s YouTube channel.