Graphene Set to Change the Future of Electronics

A new building material is capturing attention in the electronics world because it offers compelling capabilities for designers building the next generation of cool gadgets. Graphene's unusual properties make it ideal for invisible and flexible touch-screens in devices such as smartphones and tablets that fold up, bendable smartwatches, TVs, and memory chips to mention just a few.

Graphene is an atom-thick two-dimensional mineral discovered in 2004 by Andre Geim, PhD, and Kostya Novoselov, PhD, both researchers at the University of Manchester, UK. The two professors were awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics for their groundbreaking experiments. It's little wonder since it seems like this new material will be a superhero for designers: Graphene is stronger than steel, harder than diamonds, more conductive than copper, more flexible than rubber. It is transparent and almost invisible. Graphene conducts electricity 100 times faster than silicon and can take any form you want. Watch this short video to learn more about graphene:

Superconducting graphene-calcium compound
Recent research at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University discovered how graphene is superconducting in a graphene-calcium compound, allowing graphene to carry electricity with 100% efficiency. Although the superconductivity of graphene-calcium has been known for nearly a decade, the new study shows that the graphene layers are instrumental in the process.

Researchers isolated the carbon sheets by chemically interweaving graphite with crystals of pure calcium. The resulting calcium intercalated (layered) graphite, or CaC6 , consists of alternating one-atom-thick layers of graphene and calcium. The CaC6 samples were made at Imperial College London and later on sent to the SLAC. Thanks to this discovery, the scientists expect the manufacture of superconducting graphene devices and the engineering of other materials for nanoscale electronics.

The study, Superconducting Graphene Sheets in CaC6 Enabled by Phonon-Mediated Interband Interactions (open access), was published in the journal Nature Communications in March this year. An extract from the abstract reads:

Our results indicate the opening of a superconducting gap in the π* band and reveal a substantial contribution to the total electron-phonon-coupling strength from the π*-interlayer interband interaction. Combined with theoretical predictions, these results provide a complete account for the superconducting mechanism in graphite intercalation compounds and lend support to the idea of realizing superconducting graphene by creating an adatom superlattice.

The graphene revolution
Graphene promises to be invaluable in hardware design innovation. It will not only make a great impact in the future of electronics and telecommunications applications due to its unusual electronic properties combined with the possibility of chemical modification, but graphene will also revolutionize other industries such as aerospace, automotive, energy storage, coatings and paints, sensors, solar, and oil. There is also a door open for developing new materials on demand by stacking layers of graphene and other two-dimensional crystals with different insulating, conducting, and magnetic properties. With this beginning, we also enter “The Wonderful World of Wonder Materials.”

Laboratory wars, or court wars ahead?
As graphene becomes more popular because it promises to become invaluable in hardware design innovation, and as it becomes revolutionary in so many industries, the world of patents and patent-related lawsuits may see graphene entering the courtrooms as well. However, the first wars over graphene that electronics manufacturers will fight are going to take place in the lab environment.

Apple, Samsung, IBM, and Foxconn have been reported to have graphene-related patents. In the future, we can expect to see more terahertz computer chips, flexible displays, and ultra-powerful batteries. It is only a matter of time before the first mobile devices and wearables using graphene are manufactured.

11 comments on “Graphene Set to Change the Future of Electronics

  1. Ariella
    June 11, 2014

    All very exciting, Susan. Graphene is amazingly strong and holds great potential.  

  2. apek
    June 11, 2014

    Yeah. Graphene would help in progress of Moore's law

  3. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    June 11, 2014

    Read more about Apek's thoughts on Moore's Law here: Physics, Not Economics, Will End Moore's Law



  4. Ravenwood
    June 12, 2014

    re: “Apple, Samsung, IBM, and Foxconn have been reported to have graphene-related patents. …”

    Which will not deter Chinese development of graphene-related products.


  5. Eldredge
    June 12, 2014

    It sounds like graphene will be an ideal material to use for integration of electrical/electronic functions within structural materials. It will be very interesting to see how this material will be used.

  6. prabhakar_deosthali
    June 13, 2014

    Some of the applications where Graphene  could revolutionize the product design are


    – Solar panel design –  you could have the glass panes of your house windows fitted with transparent solar panels

    – Supercapacitors – you could build high capacity supercapacitors in smaller form factors for use in EVs


    – All kind of wearable devices could use the bendable displays using this material


    – The EVs could be fitted with light weight solar panels on their rooftops for continous recharging of their batteries while driving


    The list is endless!

  7. Wale Bakare
    June 13, 2014

    The high conductivity of heat and electricity are responsible for the importance of Graphene. Also, its low mass (weight), another important characteristic making it more suitable for future electronic devices.

    Graphene a one-atom thick layer of graphite. I think, battle for this element would be, who has this more for production of devices.

  8. Eldredge
    June 15, 2014

    Another reason for it's importance is that carbon is readily available. Production of graphene is not dependent on availability of a relatively rare element.

  9. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    June 16, 2014

    @SparkytheWondercat:Thanks for weighing in.  The issue of technology theft is real… Organizations can't stop innovating just becasue it might get copied. Any advice on what they should do instead?

  10. Ravenwood
    June 17, 2014

    Q: Any advice on what they should do instead?

    A: Lobby their respective country's leaders to throttle trade with countries who make no real effort to stop technology theft. Educate the Public through mass media and point directly at the countries/companies associated with technology theft. Follow the money; seize assets from known perpetrators and award those victimized. Treat technology like a controlled substance or conflict mineral, and make all Users responsible for knowing from whence it came.

  11. Hailey Lynne McKeefry
    June 17, 2014

    @Sparky the Wonder Cat: thanks… i got to thinking about whether other industries have undertaken this sort of effort. The anti-piracy campaigns by the video industry, as well as efforts to foil illegal downloads come to mind. Of course, there was a lot of public outcry but these measures always create some level of inconvenience. it may just be the price we have to pay.

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