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The Magical Mysteries of Graphene Explained

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

Graphene, it’s been said, might be the most amazing substance known to man. But it’s mostly languished in silence because no one’s known what the heck to do with it. That is, until recently.


In the simplest terms, graphene is an extremely thin—one atom thick—layer of carbon atoms that are bonded together in a hexagonal honeycomb matrix. Indeed, it’s the thinnest, lightest, and (between 100 and 300 times more so than steel) strongest material in the world. Oh, and it’s also the best conductor of both room-temperature heat and electricity, and it can absorb light like a bandit.


Taken together, those physical qualities make graphene an extraordinarily valuable substance for a whole lot of applications in a whack of different sectors, including flexible electronics, bioelectric devices, energy storage, optoelectronics, and ultrafiltration.


To wit, graphene’s highlight sheet, to date:

  • Researchers at the University of Cambridge have developed conductive ink with grapheme flakes mixed in that allow users to print electrodes directly onto paper, making the printed material conductive.

  • A company called Graphene Lighting is poised to introduce a dimmable graphene-based lightbulb that contains a filament-shaped, graphene-coated LED that it says will cut energy costs by 10 percent.

  • The U.S. Department of Energy recently demonstrated an energy-efficient saltwater desalination technology employing a porous graphene membrane. This is potentially big news for the massive global appetite for fresh water.

  • Carbon’s low toxicity means graphene could be useful in various human health applications, including a graphene-based system that can kill e-coli and graphene oxide flakes that have proven effective treating six different cancers.

  • Scientists from the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne have created a full-colour, pop-up, 3D floating display out of a graphene-based material that’s—amazingly—visible with the naked eye.

In the future, the highly inert properties of graphene that allow it to act as a corrosion barrier between oxygen and water diffusion could allow the production of cars whose paint renders them corrosion-resistant. Such smart car paint could also potentially record information about who’s messing with your vehicle.


There are also predictions afoot that consumer electronics companies will incorporate the very elastic material into electronic devices such as foldable televisions, telephones, and even flexible electronic newspapers.

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