Chances are you’ve never heard of graphene, but you would definitely have heard of carbon. In seemingly unrelated news, we are very excited about Samsung’s breakthrough in graphene manufacturing. Before you think that we’ve gone bonkers, let’s bring both these statements into perspective. Graphene is a form of carbon – specifically speaking, it’s a crystalline allotrope of carbon – in which carbon atoms are densely packed in a hexagonal chain-like pattern. Graphene is similar to graphite in that it is a single-atom thick layer of graphite. The thing which excites scientists in that graphene has high durability – higher than steel even – and is highly conducive of electricity and heat while being highly flexible. In fact, graphene beats silicon hands down on conductivity being a hundred times more conductive than silicon. For the uninitiated, our entire electronics revolution is dependent solely on silicon chips for conduction purposes.
Graphene’s durability, conductivity and flexibility make it a unique material for flexible displays, wearable devices and electronics in general. In fact, if the material gains wide-spread usage, we could even see mobile phones which could be rolled up in any which way, and TVs which could be as thin as paper. But we’re overshooting ourselves. Graphene was originally discovered in 2004 and in almost the last 10 years the material could not be brought into commercial manufacturing practices. One major factor was that graphene is most conducive when it is synthesized with a single crystal layer, which would then get expanded to a large area resulting in a single wafer of graphene which would be almost transparent and highly conducive. However, researchers found that if graphene was produced using the easier ‘multi-crystal’ method of synthesis (multiple crystals being used to synthesize a large are graphene wafer), the conductivity of the formed crystal was drastically reduced, which would not be commercially viable. Samsung Electronic’s subsidiary – the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology in partnership with Sungkyunkwan University have announced a breakthrough in graphene manufacturing technology wherein a single-crystal wafer scale graphene can be manufactured in a commercially viable manner. Nokia’s gets $1.36 billion for research in graphene manufacturing. “This is one of the most significant breakthroughs in graphene research in history,” said the laboratory leaders at SAIT’s Lab. “We expect this discovery to accelerate the commercialization of graphene, which could unlock the next era of consumer electronic technology.” So who wants a mobile phone, which can also double as a smartwatch or bracelet?