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Move Over Silicon: Graphene is Coming

Since its isolation in 2004, graphene has been attracting the attention of researchers around the globe. In very simple terms, graphene is a single layer of pure carbon atoms, tightly bound together in a hexagonal lattice formation. Layers of graphene stacked together form the more common graphite. Why all the attention on and fascination with graphene? Consider the following:

  • Thin. At one atom thick, graphene is the thinnest compound and is actually considered to be two dimensional.
  • Lightweight. Graphene is incredibly light; 1 square meter of graphene measures about 0.77 milligrams.
  • Strong. Graphene is between 100-300 times stronger than steel, making it the strongest compound currently known.
  • Conductive. Graphene is an outstanding conductor of heat and electricity, very possibly one of the best conductors out there.
  • Available. Carbon is everywhere; it’s the 4th most abundant element in the universe.
  • Visible. Most amazingly, graphene absorbs about 2.3% of light, so, even at only one atom thick, it can be seen with the naked eye.

Graphene is a thin, lightweight material that’s stronger than steel, is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity, and is ecologically friendly and sustainable. With all these characteristics, it’s not hard to see why graphene has scientists talking.


For all it’s simplicity, just one layer of carbon atoms, graphene is not without its challenges. Graphene can only be grown using chemical synthesis in very small quantities before it starts to bend and lose its two-dimensional shape. To remain two dimensional, it must bond to a substrate. Other production methods are also possible, including exfoliating single layers of graphene from graphite and then depositing them on a silicon wafer, using a single-crystal diamond wedge to cleave layers from graphite, and dispersing graphite in a liquid medium and then using sonication followed by centrifugation to create graphene. One of the most effective ways to produce graphene is chemical vapor deposition (CVD).

CVD growth of graphene effectively produces high-quality graphene on a fairly large scale by combining gas molecules inside a reaction chamber at high temperatures. When the gases come into contact with the substrate, a controlled reaction occurs that creates a thin film of carbon on the surface of the substrate, graphene. It’s then possible to separate the graphene CVD from the substrate for use in any number of diverse applications. Best of all, the substrate can be be reused to create more graphene an infinite number of times, which significantly reduces waste.

The Future

Graphene CVD will change the world. Thin graphene membranes can bring clean water to millions of people, revolutionize portable electronics, replace heavy and dangerous lithium batteries, or even make the very first bionic eye. The possibilities are endless!

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