Can your supermaterial do this?
Bookmark and Share
Feb 06, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Can your supermaterial do this?

A thin coating of graphene has amazing attributes, and can be used to conduct electricity, for rustproofing, to offer protection from sun damage, and lubricate miniaturized communication devices


While scientists are working on thousands of potential applications for graphene, researchers in Kingston, Ont., are focusing on coatings of the material, which they say promises more immediate benefits.

Though it adds little additional strength, a coating of graphene can impart many of the material’s other astonishing attributes to the products being coated.

Chief among these is its capacity to conduct electricity, which is 1,000 times greater than that of copper.

The material’s unmatched conductivity could improve the performance of coated touchscreens for smartphones and tablet devices, says Mark Gallerneault, director of technology at the Grafoid Global Technology Centre in Kingston, Ont.

Graphene-coated solar panels could likewise be much more efficient electricity conductors, he says.

“There’s no other material right now that I can put current through at one atom layer thick and carry any current worth beans,” Gallerneault says.

Graphene is already being used to enhance the efficiency of batteries and capacitors, says Aiping Yu, a University of Waterloo chemical engineer.

As well, being the world’s most impermeable material, graphene could be used as an anticorrosion agent on vulnerable metal products like the heat exchangers used in such products as refrigeration and air conditioning units.

“One layer of atoms can stop corrosion,” Gallerneault says. “Water can’t get through that boundary.”

And at a materials cost of about $500 for a 1,000-square-metre coat, even barn roofs could be candidates for affordable graphene rust-proofing, Gallerneault says.

Glass products too could be enhanced with graphene coatings in a host of different ways, he says.

Because smudging water wouldn’t stick to them, for example, graphene-coated windows would be virtually self-cleaning, he says.

And since it also has significant light refraction properties, graphene could also add UV shielding to protect various materials from sun damage.

“Graphene is (also) very receptive to certain kinds of chemical bonding and it would allow you to add (chemical) species onto … that graphene surface to do something else,” he says. “For instance, you could make it be effective against certain types of bacteria. And you can’t do that with glass itself because it doesn’t have any of those sites that things want to (chemically) attach to.”

Molecules might also be attached to the welcoming coating that could make catalytic surfaces to speed up chemical reactions for labs and industries.

Graphene would also create slippery surfaces on any product it might cover, says Tobin Filleter, who runs the University of Toronto mining school lab.

And this could make it a durable, lubricating agent for the micro-electro-mechanical systems — or MEMS — engines that will increasingly power miniaturized communication, medical and sensory devices.

“The traditional liquid lubricants, you just can’t fit them in at this (microscopic) size,” Filleter says.

“And it turns out graphene is the world’s thinnest, good solid lubricant…and it’s incredibly wear-resistant.”

Since current flows through graphene can also be readily controlled, Filleter says, the material represents a promising transistor chip replacement for silicon, a substance which is thought to be reaching its computational power limits.

Toronto Star

Bookmark and Share

(0) Comment

Join The Conversation Sign Up Login

In Your Neighbourhood Today