Find out more about Graphene

What Graphene is, how it is made and how it will change our world…

What is graphene?

Graphene is carbon, just like diamonds or graphite. It is made of carbon atoms joined together in hexagons to form a flat sheet rather like chicken wire just one atom thick.

How most graphene is made

The top down method
Graphite is the source of most graphene at present. Graphite is made of layers of graphene stacked on top of one another rather like playing cards in a pack. Grinding up the graphite or using electricity and chemical techniques can free the graphene layers as very small nanometre sized pieces called nanoplates.

Other ways to make graphene

The bottom up method
The main alternative way of making graphene is to assemble the sheet atom by atom. This starts with methane, which is one carbon atom attached to four hydrogen atoms. Get things very hot and the bonds between the carbon and hydrogen start to beak. Introduce this hot gas to a sheet of metal (usually copper or nickel) and the carbon atoms start to link together in the most stable structure. This happens to be the hexagonal arrangement of graphene. Once the surface is covered the reaction stops leaving a one atom thick layer of graphene that can be separated from the metal. This is called the Chemical Vapour Deposition (CVD) process and makes sheets of graphene at square centimetre scales.

What graphene is used for

CVD graphene sheet is still an expensive laboratory material so this is used for research purposes at the moment. Nanoplate graphene is commercially available as black powders and slurries in various liquids. This material is already being added to other materials where it can make carbon fibre composites 30% lighter for the same strength. It can also be added to rubber to make tyres stronger and grip better. Anti corrosion paints containing graphene are already being used to protect wind turbines and bridges Graphene is also finding uses in medicine where it can help make sensors to detect biological compounds. It can also be used in wound dressings to make wounds heal faster.

What graphene could be used for

Once large sheets of graphene can be made commercially we can expect flexible touchscreens for our mobile phones, body armour that is stronger and lighter than anything we have seen. Graphene is also being used to make the next generation photonic devices giving us faster data transfer and the ability to see though fog and mist. The applications are endless and you can find out about them here, just sign up for the blog.

Links to creditable graphene bodies

Graphene Engineering and Innovation Centre (GEIC – pronounced like ‘geek’)

National Graphene Institute (NGI)

National Graphene Association

Graphene City

National Physical Laboratory

BREC Solutions ltd

Graphene Flagship