For those who do not yet know that graphene is a 2D material: a carbon sheet the thickness of an atom. His discovery earned him the 2010 Nobel Prize and is invading all fields of technology, from electronics to aeronautics, from medicine to space exploration.
When the carbon atoms bind randomly, we get the graphite, that of the pencils, so to speak. But when the structure is ordered, here we have the diamond. A new carbon material, graphene, appeared a few years ago: it has an ordered structure, but only 2 dimensions. It is in fact a “sheet” of the thickness of a single atom (monoatomic): a material with science-fiction properties that makes one think of (science-fiction) ideas of space elevators and space ships driven by solar sails. 2004 in an English laboratory, when two scientists tried to obtain a thinner layer of graphite. The two future Nobel Prizes, armed with adhesive tape and a lot of patience, have removed the graphite one strip at a time, to remain with a layer of carbon monoatomic, previously considered impossible.
WITHOUT LIMITS. Over the years new methods of graphene production have been introduced and today, every month, several tons of this very light material are created. “Graphene is a truly global phenomenon,” says Konstantin Novoselov, one of the two authors of the discovery. “For some areas of application I feel an expert, for others I never cease to be amazed by what can and can be done with graphene”.
PHILOSOPHER’S STONE. Like all materials, graphene also has different uses. In everyday life we may have already crossed it in rackets, helmets, shoes … But thanks to its unique properties (and still largely to be discovered) it can be used for the most diverse roles.
Thanks to the possibility of creating “holes” in its structure, it can become a water purifier or an air filter. Or a molecular wall that mimics the cell membrane, and then only a few substances pass.Its electrical conductivity (it is better than copper) can transform it into a small light bulb or a bionic retina, but above all it will upset the world of computing with printed circuits. Furthermore, applied to dynamic microphones, it amplifies its sensitivity 32 times. Using graphene sheets, 3D spongy constructions were made, 10 times harder than steel and decidedly lighter. And it is precisely for this combination of strength and lightness that graphene has been defined as a possible material to produce solar sails for futuristic spacecraft destined for long distances.
CHEMICAL CHIMERE. In fact, many compounds of graphene and other materials are under development. Like a hybrid with spider web silk, or with the same diamond. A slime of graphene can perceive the steps of a spider, while the graphene oxide has already been used for holographic screens and to make seawater drinkable.
THE MATERIAL OF THE FUTURE. Among the organizations in Flagship there are companies like Leonardo, but also the National Research Council. His first researcher, the nuclear physicist Valerio Rossi Albertini, declares: “graphene is the material that will lead to the greatest technological revolution of the next twenty years, because it will change our daily life”.
Novoselov, who is currently very interested in the use of graphene in optoelectronics and telecommunications, is of the same opinion, but, he says, “even though the biomedical applications will be formidable, I look forward to discovering those applications that we are not even able to manage today Think about why graphene offers much more than any other material ».
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