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The Most Important Material of the 21st Century

It’s the strongest material in the world – 200 times stronger than steel.

Yet it’s also extremely light – a one-meter sheet weights less than three ounces.

It’s “the best conductor of electricity and heat,” according to the University of Manchester scientists who’s leading research into it. A better conductor than copper, in fact.

It’s also “bendable, stretchable and transparent,” says that same scientist, Dr. Aravind Vijayaraghavan.

We’re talking about graphene – dubbed the “wonder material of the 21st Century” for its remarkable and diverse properties.

Derived from graphite, the potential applications for graphene are practically limitless…

Even Tennis Champs Love Graphene

For example…

~ Mobile Devices: The thin, light properties of graphene are compelling for our phones, tablets and e-readers. On a related note…

~ Batteries: Graphene could significantly boost battery life and recharge cellphones in minutes.

~ E-Paper: Graphene’s electro-magnetic properties make it suitable for more advanced e-paper, or e-ink. And its flexibility means we could see it in the growing push toward flexible screens for our televisions and mobile phones.

~ Energy: Graphene can convert light into electricity and electricity into light.

~ Water Filtration: The material is ideal in water filtration systems. There’s even talk of it being used for desalination.

~ Cleaning: Graphene + boron = “white graphene,” which is very effective at cleaning up industrial pollutants, plus radioactivity.

Star tennis players, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray also both play with racquets made from a graphene composite. On a related note, there are enough layers of graphene in a single tiny flake to cover a tennis court.

As Dr. Vijayaraghavan says, “It’s not just one thing that makes it amazing. It’s the fact that it’s all these things rolled into one.”

Check out what he’s talking about…

Indeed, the Manchester researchers believe graphene has the potential to be a truly life-changing material. In fact, Konstantin Novoselev, one of the Russian scientists who originally discovered it – wrote in the Nature journal that it could become “the next disruptive technology, replacing some of the currently used materials and leading to new markets.”

But it won’t come easy…

Like Wrestling With Saran Wrap

Because graphene is the smallest, thinnest atom on the periodic table – just one atom thick – it’s also tough to handle. Isolating a single sheet of the material wasn’t even achieved until 2004 – a feat that won the original scientists the Nobel Prize for Physics.

Dr. Vijayaraghavan states, “Think of cling-film [saran wrap]. If you try to handle that, you’re already facing a nightmare. It gets everywhere, it crinkles up, it sticks to everything. It’s the same thing [with graphene], except a million times thinner.”

Because of that, large-scale graphene production is difficult and expensive at the moment, which creates a barrier to mass market entry.

As the University of Manchester’s Professor Ian Kinloch says, “You have this massive interest where everyone is really excited about the material, where everyone is throwing money and ideas, and the press is talking about it. But then you realize there are actually a number of challenges to get it to the marketplace. And there’s a dip. They call this a valley of death.”

But nothing worth achieving ever came without hard work…

The World’s Minds – And Money – Are Lining Up Behind Graphene

We’re still several years away from large-scale graphene production. But technology is helping advance the process.

For example, electrolysis is one potential option – forcing lithium ions into layers of graphite to pull the graphene apart easier and faster.

In addition, governments are helping fund research into the material. In Britain, the government has kicked in around $100 million, which includes the building of the National Graphene Institute.

The European Union will spend one billion euros on graphene research over the next decade. And South Korea is putting in almost $50 million.

That kind of funding wouldn’t be happening if graphene didn’t have serious, wide-ranging potential.

Nor would there be close to 10,000 graphene patents worldwide, or many thousands of studies and research projects to investigate the material.

Its discovery has already shifted conventional thinking in engineering, construction, physics and nanotechnology.

And now, the game is on to commercialize it.

Ahead of the tape,

Martin Denholm

Martin Denholm

, Managing Editor

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