What is the importance of graphene?

I n simple terms, graphene, is a thin layer of pure carbon. It is a single, tightly packed layer of carbon atoms that are bonded together in a hexagonal honeycomb lattice.

It is the thinnest compound known to Man, for it is only one atom thick. It is one of the lightest material known, and the strongest compound discovered, being between 100-300 times stronger than steel

Graphene is also the best conductor of electricity. It is stretchable, and yet is almost transparent. It con-‘ ducts heat better than any other known substance.

It acts as a barrier to the smallest atom of gas – helium and yet allows water vapour to pass through. Although scientists knew one atom thick, two-dimensional crystal graphene existed, no-one had worked out how to extract it from graphite.

That was until it was isolated in 2004 by two researchers at The University of Manchester, Professor Andre Geim and Professor Kostya Novoselov.

The potential uses for graphene appear almost limitless. They range from new types of flexible electronics that could be worn on clothes or folded up into a pocket, to a new generation of very small computers, hyper-efficient solar panels, and super-fast mobile phones.

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