Graphene: Thinnest Material Ever Made


"Sheets of it are only one atom thick. Expect it in a gadget near you within five years."

What is the thinnest material ever made? That accolade goes to graphene, a form of carbon: sheets of it are only one atom thick. A very familiar form of carbon is graphite, as used in pencils. When you draw, you're laying down thin layers of graphite. If you were to peel those away layer by layer, you'd end up with a trace just an atom thick. And that's graphene. First produced in 2004, graphene has been found to have remarkable properties of strength and electrical conductivity. The latter is causing the most excitement.

As a semiconductor, graphene allows super efficient transistors. These in turn can be bundled into low-power, fast computer chips. Or, combined with graphene's impressive strength, semi-conducting materials can be fashioned into thin, durable, efficient touchscreen displays for mobile phones. Graphene is still an experimental material, but it is causing a real stir, winning the Nobel Prize in physics for its discoverers in 2010. Expect it in a gadget near you within five years.

The Economic Times

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