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Graphene: Fast, Strong, Cheap, and Impossible To Use

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    Last Updated: December 15, 2014


    An anonymous reader writes: We keep hearing about the revolutionary properties of graphene, an atom-thick sheet of carbon whose physical characteristics hold a great deal of promise — if we can figure out good ways to produce it and use it. The New Yorker has a lengthy profile of graphene and its discoverer, Andre Geim, as well as one of the physicists leading a big chunk of the bleeding-edge graphene research, James Tour. Quoting: “[S]cientists are still trying to devise a cost-effective way to produce graphene at scale. Companies like Samsung use a method pioneered at the University of Texas, in which they heat copper foil to eighteen hundred degrees Fahrenheit in a low vacuum, and introduce methane gas, which causes graphene to “grow” as an atom-thick sheet on both sides of the copper—much as frost crystals “grow” on a windowpane. They then use acids to etch away the copper. The resulting graphene is invisible to the naked eye and too fragile to touch with anything but instruments designed for microelectronics. The process is slow, exacting, and too expensive for all but the largest companies to afford. … Nearly every scientist I spoke with suggested that graphene lends itself especially well to hype.”

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