Graphene is a two-dimensional allotrope of carbon, and sits alongside C60 (0-D), carbon nanotubes (1-D), and graphite (3-D) in the family of sp2-bonded forms of carbon. It consists of single atomic layers of carbon (~0.3nm thick) while extending many hundreds of nanometres in the lateral dimension.
Since its isolation in 2004, this ‘wonder material’ has been shown to possess a startling array of superlative properties. As well as being the thinnest material, it is the strongest material ever discovered (breaking strength of 42 Nm-2, 100 times greater than steel). It shows electrical and thermal conductivity greater than copper at a fraction of the weight. It absorbs only 2.3% of the light passing through it, allowing transparent films to be manufactured, which retain the other properties mentioned above.
As an illustration, if we were to make a hammock from a sheet of graphene 1m2, it would weigh 0.77mg, and would be invisible to the naked eye.
Potential applications for graphene include mechanical reinforcement of polymers, transparent conductive materials, flexible electronics, super-capacitors, thermoelectric materials, printable electronics and thermal management materials.
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Collaboration with TCD Dublin
While graphene has been demonstrated to possess incredible properties, a large scale production method is required before they can be fully realised. Thomas Swan is currently working in collaboration with Professor Coleman at Trinity College Dublin to develop a process to produce large amounts of high quality graphene flakes.
TCD is one of the world leading centres for the exfoliation of low-dimensional nanomaterials, and the expertise this offers is invaluable to ensure the quality of the product that is produced through this process.
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