methow grist 2011-2014 archive


Cheap, abundant, promising

As a material sheet, it's one atom thick—the thinnest, hardest known to exist—200 times stronger than steel, transparent, "one seventh the weight of air.” It’s one of the most flexible materials and conducts electricity even when stretched up to 20%. Too good to be true?

Well, the brains behind Graphene will have to figure out how to produce enough of it cheaply enough. They will, and given the extreme possible usefulness of Graphene, it does seem too good to be true. It is far more useful than even plastics. It is even being used to develop a better "bullet proof” condom.

photoTom Berry in his "graphene age" vintage Studebaker, circa 2087. Image courtesy of Tom Berry

This material, when quantity-affordable production begins, will change how we live--simple as that. The subject is so big that it boggles an active mind and, dang, I won't be around to really enjoy it. But for those who will, gee, how cool. We'll have to wait and see how quickly an industry based on silicon is able to adapt to Graphene, but it will. This stuff is flexible where silicon is quite brittle.

What does it have to do with computing? Lots.

Graphene will change the electronics world. It will give us ultra thin, flexible devices with new kinds of energy storage devices (batteries) that will recharge very quickly. The fact that it is not opaque brings up all kinds of uses—quantum light energy-driven computing comes to mind—which has been the dream of extreme speed computing power for a while now.

We have to remember that the computing we're talking about is not the traditional desk top or even hand held. We’re talking about computing that literally weaves its way into all aspects of our daily lives. We'll be wearing it all over us and it is predicted that it will be computing inside our bodies, too, by doing things like interfacing with cells. That's taking it a bit further than even Star Trek sci-fi.

Here's a fact that seems strange to say the least: An ounce of it could cover 28 football fields one atom thick. Watch your step.

Graphene has properties that are extremely rare to find in one material. It is predicted that this material will issue in a new era of cell phones that are ultra thin and have the ability to stay charged for much longer periods of time. And the quick recharge capacity of material-new batteries will allow solar energy to become a bigger factor in keeping devices running. You'll likely have solar paneling built into personal items, clothes, almost everything imaginable because it is so flexible.

The car industry is already working on building Graphene into vehicle bodies that will incorporate solar energy into much stronger protective construction. And we're talking computing that is thin like a piece of paper. We've been talking about electronic paper for a long time and here we go.

They expect to build sensors of all types into the thin, flexible material that could give the advantage of alerting you, the wearer, to any environmental condition you are walking into. Maybe your shirt will light up for a bad smell and flash text alerting others, "It's not me!"

And if you are having a hard time remembering where you put your smart phone, imagine when the device is as thin as paper and transparent! Well, it won't be that hard to see. And recalling the communicator badge Star Trek style, Graphene will have that beat. If your communicator is attached to you, activated using voice commands, what's to lose?

Graphene is just beginning to unfold. I don't know about you, but my imagination is going bonkers. With medical device advances brought on my thin transparent Graphene, I may be around, after all, to enjoy this stuff. They'll keep me alive and paying taxes far longer than I imagined.


Have a comment? >>