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Wonder stuff: Uses for graphene

Graphene copy

Thin as an atom, with amazing strength and electrical properties, graphene is the scientific find of the century. Found in a similar way to that of Penicillin, it is only a few atoms thick and a hundred times stronger than steel, it conducts electricity and heat better than any other substance and can form a perfect barrier to even Helium which has the smallest molecular structure of gases. The implications on the environment are astounding and could help with World welfare and

Drinking water

Graphene could be used to desalinate seawater to make it drinkable. Scientists believe that passing seawater through graphene’s tiny pores, the crystal lattice could let water molecules through, while blocking out the atoms that make salt. Using a graphene filter, Lockheed hopes to transform salt water into drinking water by the end of the year.

Smartphones

Being both transparent and conductive, graphene could be perfect for the new generation of smartphones. Samsung are among the consumer electronics companies that are developing touchscreen interfaces.

Computers

It is hoped that graphene can replace silicon chips. Electronics firms are testing graphene in numerous electrical devices. IBM has already piloted computers that use the material to achieve the record-setting speed of 100GHz.

Satellites, planes and cars

Graphene has properties that provide light but super-strong composite materials for next-generation satellites, planes and cars. The new form of carbon could further reduce aircraft weight, subsequently cutting the burning of fuel and dumping of carbon in the atmosphere.

Building materials

Scientists believe that graphene’s flexible nature may prove the ideal building material, with the trick being to incorporate it into a matrix like a polymer or a metal, where the load is borne by the graphene layer.

Rust-free cars

Graphene repels water and is highly conductive. This combination keeps steel from coming into contact with water and delays the electrochemical reactions that oxidize iron. New York scientists designed a polymer coating containing this form of carbon and found that it protected steel from rusting for up to a month.

Military equipment

Graphene foam can pick up small concentrations of the nitrates and ammonia found in explosives. A postage-size sensor developed in the US could soon be mandatory for bomb squads. Australian researchers found adding an equal amount of graphene and carbon nanotubes to a polymer produced a super-strong fibre that could be spun into fabric used to make bulletproof vests.

Nuclear clean-up

Graphene oxide can absorb radioactive waste. Researchers at Rice University and Lomonosov Moscow State University found that tiny bits of graphene oxide bind to radioactive contaminants, transforming them into large extractable clumps. This could help after nuclear accidents like the Fukushima disaster.

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