So just what is Graphene? Graphene, the “wonder material”, continues to capture the imagination. A honeycomb of carbon atoms so thin it is considered two-dimensional, graphene is stronger than diamond, more electrically conductive than copper and more bendable than rubber.
The durability of graphene has been a problem until now. There have been recent discoveries leading to methods to bulk manufacture the material. And there are hybrid graphene spin-offs – new substances with special properties of their own.
Here are six ways graphene could extend the longevity of products.
1. Flexible smart cards
A graphene smart card would reduce the billions of credit and other bank cards that exist in this world, as shown by the Spanish company Graphenano. Imagine a single touch-activated card that held all your personal information – credit cards, boarding passes, train tickets, Oyster cards – in one. With everything updated from a computer, a smart card could eradicate enormous amounts of plastic waste.
2. Updatable foldable newspaper
Last September, the Cambridge Graphene Centre demonstrated the first graphene-based flexible display. It could be bent this way and that, while continuing to show digital content. It was a little moment of great significance.
A bendable screen could be used in any number of ways. Like the moving images in the Daily Prophet newspaper featured in Harry Potter, real newspapers could develop foldable graphene templates that are updated wirelessly each day, cutting paper waste dramatically.
3. Electric car batteries
Batteries have long been the Achilles heel of electric cars. Poor charge capacity means that people are less likely to rely on them, and with the lifespan of the battery linked to the lifespan of the vehicle, electric cars often become obsolete and need replacing.
At last, there are plans to introduce a new polymeric graphene battery in 2015. Especially suited to electric cars, this battery is said to have a lifetime four-times longer than conventional hybrid ones and allows vehicles to run as much as 1,000km on a 10-minute charge. Without the need to be replaced, the graphene battery may signal a new era for the electric car.
4. Indestructible smart phones
In America the average lifespan of a smartphone is just two years. Some models fall out of fashion, others are lost, smashed or drowned in water. According to extended warranty service provider SquareTrade, as many as one third of smartphone users damage their handset in the first year of ownership.
For a prevalent product, this signifies enormous waste, yet graphene’s tough properties could change this. A recent experiment published in the journal Science suggested graphene was twice as bullet-proof as Kevlar – the standard material for ballistic armour. Imagine if such a strong material was integrated into smartphone design, replacing the glass or plastic components?
Not so eye-catching, but equally useful is graphene’s use as a paint. Its tough exterior is useful to withstand the wind and rain in outdoor structures, but it also has useful lubricating properties that mean it works in other situations. Applied Graphene Materials in the USA are developing graphene paints that can be used on a ship’s hulls, halting the spread of underwater corrosion and stopping barnacles from adhering to metal.
A similar enterprise is underway in Spain, where Grapheano have mixed together graphene powder and ground limestone to make a paint that they call Graphenstone. In a publicity move they proposed to paint the Valencia opera house that had been damaged by wind erosion just eight years after its completion.
6. Solar panels
Standard solar panels have a lifespan of about 40 years, but become less efficient with time and often have to be replaced. One of the main challenges is exposure to all types of weather.
Scientists at the University of Exeter claim that solar panels could be made much more weather resistant if the indium tin oxide (ITO) currently used was replaced with GraphExeter. Formulated at The Centre for Graphene Science at the University of Exeter, GraphExeter comprises several layers of graphene sheets mixed with a separate layer of ferric chloride molecules.
According to a recent press release, GraphExeter is much tougher than ITO and improves on the properties of traditional graphene, able to withstand humidity of 100% and temperatures of up to 150C, all of which promises less waste and huge improvements for the solar panel industry.
WOW – sounds like such a versatile material – and would leapfrog us into the next big technology boost.
While cleanliness is something that can be a ‘hot-button’ topic, it’s also a question of degree… Here’s a story about a change in thought patterns concerning the materials that actually go into creating clothing.
“Scientists and designers are increasingly looking at ways to blur the boundaries between biology and fashion.” Whether you’re a guy or a gal, this new concept of what you put into your wardrobe may change fashion and make hand-me-downs a thing of the past… Sustainability and functionality – can you be part of the move to more eco-friendly clothing?
From wedding dresses grown from tree mulch to clothes made from yeast, bacteria and even mouse cells –
welcome to the world of homegrown fashion
Decades ago, a now-classic episode of the TV program “I Love Lucy” had a hilarious sketch involving Lucy and her best friend, Ethel, hand rolling and packaging chocolates on a conveyer belt. This particular show is still among my favorites – not least because it involved chocolate, of which I am passionately fond!
There have been a lot of advances in assembly-line technology since then. Here’s a look at:
And a very interesting look at the man who ‘started it all’: Reymond Clavel of EPFL (École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne)
Robots are handling many of the tasks that used to require human dexterity. Are you part of the advance of the machines? (Although, they probably won’t make you laugh til you cry like Lucy and Ethel did!)
The University of Michigan Ann Arbor is taking driving to roads hitherto untraveled! They’re testing vehicles in a ‘fake city’ constructed on their campus under the auspices of the Mobility Transformation Center, a partnership with industry and government to lay the foundations for a commercially viable ecosystem of connected and automated mobility. Read the story straight from the school:
Called M City, the one-of-a-kind facility will include a network of roads with up to five lanes, intersections, roundabouts, roadway markings, traffic signs and signals, sidewalks, bus facilities, benches, simulated buildings, streetlights, parked cars, pedestrians and obstacles like construction barriers.
The story is getting play from the UK tabloids as well… The Fake City Helping Create Tomorrow’s Cars
While it might seem like an image out of a Hollywood movie clip, the advances that are made on this “stage set” are hoping to lead to the implementation of a connected and automated mobility system on the streets of southeastern Michigan by 2021.
Snact is just starting to ramp up their new business using food that would otherwise be thrown away, such as apples that are deemed too small for supermarkets as well as other fruits that would otherwise be thrown away. A bit of pulping and a lot of drying later, they turn into snacts.
GrowUP Urban Farms uses aquaponics to produce sustainable plant and fish growth to supply city businesses with nutritious food. They lower the environmental impact of agriculture by building and operating farms that take unused urban space and use it to grow produce. Through the use of aquaponic technology and protected cropping, they can produce a year-round harvest of fresh, leafy vegetables and fish.
Sounds like 2 very responsible businesses that are lead by young entrepreneurs who decided to take action and make a sustainable difference in the world.