Graphene – the perfect atomic lattice

Graphene is a form of carbon. As a substance, it is entirely new – not only the thinnest ever but also the strongest. As a conductor of electricity, it performs as well as copper. As a conductor of heat, it outperforms useful conducting metals such as silver and copper. It is completely clear, yet so dense that not even the smallest gas atoms can pass through it. It is so strong that a 1 m2 hammock, no more substantial than a cat’s whisker, could bear the pressure of an average sized cat without breaking.


In a world of paradoxes
Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov used a piece of graphene no thicker than the diameter of a hair to investigate the miraculous traits of graphene. The most striking is that electrons traveling in graphene behave as if they did not have any mass and move ahead at a constant speed of one thousand miles per second. This opens up the opportunity of studying certain phenomena more efficiently on a much smaller scale, i.e., without the use of a massive particle accelerator.

Energy distribution of the charge carriers in graphene

Graphene also enables scientists to test for some of the more ghost-like quantum effects that have so far only been discussed theoretically. One such phenomenon is a variant of Klein tunneling, which was formulated by the Swedish physicist Oskar Klein in 1929. This tunnel effect in quantum physics describes how particles can sometimes pass through a barrier that would usually block them – the more significant the wall, the smaller the chance of quantum particles passing through. However, this does not apply to electrons traveling in graphene – in some circumstances; they move ahead as if the barrier did not even exist.


So far, most of the possible practical applications for graphene exist only in our fantasies. Graphene’s conducting ability has spurred a great deal of interest. Thus graphene transistors are prophesied to be substantially faster than those made out of silicon today. Maybe we are on the verge of yet another miniaturization of electronics that will lead to computers becoming even more efficient in the future.


Since graphene is practically transparent (up to nearly 98%) while being able to conduct electricity, it would be suitable for the production of transparent touch screens, light panels, and maybe solar cells. Also, plastics could be made into electronic conductors if only 1% of graphene were mixed into them. Likewise, by mixing in just a fraction of a per mille of graphene, the heat resistance of plastics would increase by 30˚ C while at the same time making them more mechanically robust. This resilience could be utilized in new super durable materials, which are also thin, elastic, and lightweight.

The entire structure of graphene also makes it suitable for the production of sensitive sensors that could register pollution at the molecular level.

Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov
Andre Geim
Dutch citizen. Born 1958 in Sochi, Russia. Ph.D. 1987 from Institute of Solid State Physics, Russian Academy of Sciences, Chernogolovka, Russia. Director of Manchester Centre for Meso-science & Nanotechnology, Langworthy Professor of Physics and Royal Society 2010 Anniversary Research Professor, University of Manchester, UK.

Konstantin Novoselov
British and Russian citizen. Born 1974 in Nizhny Tagil, Russia. Ph.D. 2004 from Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands. Professor and Royal Society Research Fellow, University of Manchester, UK.

Playful collaborators
Konstantin Novoselov started working for Andre Geim as a Ph.D. student in the Netherlands. He subsequently followed Geim to the United Kingdom. Both of them began as physicists in Russia; now, they are both professors at the University of Manchester.

Playfulness is one of their hallmarks. With the building blocks they have at their disposal, they attempt to create something new, sometimes even by just allowing their brains to meander aimlessly. One always learns something in the process and, who knows, you may also hit the jackpot. Like now, when with graphene, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov have written themselves into the annals of science.


What is Graphene?

Graphene is a one-atom-thick layer of carbon atoms organized in a hexagonal lattice. It is the building-block of Graphite (which is used, among others things, in pencil points), but Graphene is a remarkable substance on its own - with several astonishing attributes which frequently earn it the title "wonder material."

Graphene's properties
Graphene is the thinnest substance known to man at one atom thick, and also incredibly strong - about 200 times stronger than steel. On top of that, Graphene is an exceptional conductor of heat and electricity and has outstanding light absorption abilities. It is truly a material that could change the world, with unlimited potential for integration in almost any industry.

For more information on graphene properties, click here.

Potential applications
Graphene is an incredibly diverse material and can be combined with other elements (including gases and metals) to produce different materials with various superior properties. Researchers all over the world continue to investigate continually and patent Graphene to learn its multiple features and possible applications, which include:

Graphene is a new material that is getting considerable attention - especially since the 2010 Nobel prize in physics went to Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, who first isolated Graphene in 2004.

Producing Graphene
Graphene is indeed very impressive, but creating high-quality materials is still a hurdle. Dozens of businesses around the world are contributing different types, and grades of graphene materials - ranging from high-quality single-layer Graphene synthesized using a CVD-based method to graphene flakes produced from Graphite in high volumes.

High-end graphene sheets are frequently used in R&D activities or extreme applications such as sensors, but graphene flakes, created in high volumes and at lower prices, are adopted in many applications such as sports equipment, consumer electronics, automotive and more.

Graphene products
Several businesses offer Graphene and graphene-based products. You may check our list of Graphene related companies to find a company that produces the products you need.

Today there are several more graphene products on the market. The sports industry was an early adopter, and as early as 2013 HEAD started shipping graphene-enhanced tennis rackets (called YouTek Graphene Speed series). Today one can buy graphene-enhanced helmets, ski equipment, and even Lacrosse gear.

Graphene has also entered the consumer electronics market - for example, Huawei's Mate 20 X smartphone, uses "graphene film cooling technology" for heat management purposes. Another high-profile company that adopts Graphene is Ford - which is using graphene-reinforced foam covers for noisy components in its 2019 F-150 and Mustang cars. The Graphene is infused with foam constituents, and the resulting parts are said to be 17% quieter, 20% more powerful, and 30% more heat-resistant

A new market for Graphene is the sensors market. In 2016, for example, San Diego-based Nanomedical Diagnostics (now called Cardea) started shipping its graphene-based sensors and the AGILE R100 system which allows for real-time detection of small molecules. The graphene sensor offers faster sample processing, higher accuracy, portability, and cost savings.