First discovered in 2004, graphene’s existence was first demonstrated with a simple experiment involving a graphite block and a piece of sticky tape. The tape was applied to the block and a single sheet of graphene was lifted, proving once and for all that the substance not only exists, but that it can be transferred to other substances as well.
What is it?
• The strongest substance known to man at this time.
• The thinnest substance known to man at this time.
• Possibly the substance with the highest level of conductivity, or the greatest known ability to allow the flow of electrons through itself
Under the microscope graphene resembles a honeycomb. What’s remarkable about this substance is that it consists of only a single atom, and that it exists in only two-dimensions. Whereas most substances are three-dimensional- having length, width and depth – graphene has length and width alone. For this reason scientists are classifying it in what is being called a “new class of substances.” Since it’s discovery, scientists around the world have been testing and experimenting with graphene. Other unusual properties that have been discovered are it’s elasticity- which allows it to be stretched in spite of it’s amazing strength- and it’s ability to resist damage from most substances, including both alkaline and acid compounds.
Graphene exists as a substance in and of itself- it is not made by combining other substances together. Common graphite consists of layer upon layer of this material. While it was speculated as early as 1947 that graphene could it exist, many failed attempts to demonstrate it prior to 2004 resulted in a large number of scientists speculating that isolating the material was impossible. Many others doubted that it existed at all. The 2004 discovery, however, changed the way scientists and researchers viewed this new material.
Why Is it Important?
While many of the potential uses for graphene have yet to be discovered, researchers around the globe are experimenting with the substance and hypothesizing about it’s potential uses. Applications in the fields of computer technology, communications, solar technology, forensic science, space technology, military defense, electric conductivity, quantum physics and more are currently foreseeable. Other applications will certainly be discovered as scientists such as those at the University of Manchester, who won the 2010 Nobel Prize for their work with graphene, continue to experiment and explore this amazing new material.
AzoNanotechnology: MIT team finds many uses for graphene
Reuters: Graphene’s Impact May Take Time to Show