Why Is Graphene Important?

Graphene Chemistry

Graphene consists of a sheet of carbon atoms arranged in hexagonal patterns.
Graphene consists of a sheet of carbon atoms arranged in hexagonal patterns. PASIEKA, Getty Images

Graphene is a two-dimensional honeycomb arrangement of carbon atoms that is revolutionizing technology. Its discovery was so significant that it earned Russian scientists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics. Here are some reasons why graphene is important.

It Is a Two-Dimensional Material.

Nearly every material that we encounter is three-dimensional. We are only just beginning to understand how the properties of a material are changed when it is made into a two-dimensional array.

The characteristics of graphene are very different from those of graphite, which is the corresponding three-dimensional arrangement of carbon. Studying graphene helps us to predict how other materials might behave in two-dimensional form.

Graphene Has the Best Electrical Conductivity of Any Material.

Electricity flows very quickly through the simple honeycomb sheet. Most conductors we encounter are metals, yet graphene is based on carbon, a nonmetal. This allows for the development of electricity to flow under conditions where we might not want a metal. What conditions would those be? We are only just beginning to answer that question!

Graphene Can Be Used to Make Very Small Devices.

Graphene conducts so much electricity in so small a space that it may be used to develop miniaturized super fast computers and transistors. These devices should require a minuscule amount of power to support them.

Graphene is flexible, strong and transparent, too.

Opens Research into Relativistic Quantum Mechanics.

Graphene can be used to test the predictions of quantum electrodynamics. This is a new area of research since it hasn't been easy to find a material that displays Dirac particles. The best part is, graphene isn't some exotic material.

It's something anyone can make!

Graphene Facts

  • The word "graphene" refers to a single-layer sheet of hexagonally-arranged carbon atoms. If the graphene is in another arrangement, it's usually specified. For example, bilayer graphene and multilayer graphene are other forms the material can take.
  • Just like diamond or graphite, graphene is an allotrope of carbon. Specifically, it is made of sp2 bonded carbon atoms that have a molecule bond length of 0.142 nm between atoms.
  • Three of graphene's most useful properties are that is extremely strong (100 to 300 times stronger than steel), it's conductive (best-known conductor of heat at room temperature, with an electrical current density 6 order of magnitude higher than copper), and it's flexible.
  • Graphene is the thinnest and lightest material known. A 1-square-meter sheet of graphene weighs a mere 0.0077 grams, yet is capable of supporting up to four kilograms of weight.
  • A sheet of graphene is naturally transparent.

Potential Uses of Graphene

Scientists are only just beginning to explore the many possible uses of graphene. Some of the tech under development includes: