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Graphene is the super substance that could replace silicon, plastic and glass

Marco Chiappetta | April 30, 2014
A single atom thick, yet strong as steel and hard as a diamond, graphene could change how we build technology. If we can figure out how to manufacture it.

Mechanical exfoliation can be used only to isolate relatively small pieces of graphene, however, so researchers are experimenting with other methods to produce larger quantities.

Chemical vapor deposition (CVD) is one of the most promising. In this process, chemical vapors are evaporated in a furnace, leaving a graphene deposit on a thin metal substrate. A similar process has been used in the manufacture of very large integrated circuits (VLSI) for many years. Graphene can also be isolated by submerging graphite in a liquid and blasting it with ultrasonic waves to separate its individual layers, or by slicing an edge of a cylinder formed from graphene (also known as a carbon nanotube).

Using these methods, scientists have been able to produce pieces of graphene of various qualities and sizes, including long graphene strands that have already been used to make super-capacitors. While some companies--most recently Samsung--have claimed breakthrough achievements in graphene manufacturing, most of the known work remains academic and has not yet scaled to real-world industrial applications.

We're still a ways off from widespread availability of graphene-based microprocessors, flexible touchscreens, and similarly exotic new devices. But when industry perfects a practical and inexpensive means of manufacturing graphene, you can bet it will become as ubiquitous as plastics are today.


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