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June 27, 2009 6:44 AM   Subscribe

Our new silicon overlords might end up carbon based after all.
posted by flabdablet (29 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
'Graphene' would make a lovely name for a girl.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 6:48 AM on June 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Only the crumbliest flakiest carbon conducts like carbon never conducted before . . .
posted by protorp at 7:08 AM on June 27, 2009


"...graphene is bringing the dream of a molecule-sized computer closer to reality"

I'm already having a hard enough time typing on my palm sized keyboard!
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:31 AM on June 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


Equally interestingly, it's the strongest material in the world. Personally I find it insanely exciting that one material could provide both the circuits that enable us to keep up with Moore's Law (at least) and possibly build a space elevator.

Just to humanise this
: Professor Jeffrey Kysar, a mechanical engineer, explained graphene's strength this way: Lay a graphene sheet as thick as Saran Wrap over a muffin cup, and try to pierce it with a pencil.

"The force required to push that pencil through the graphene would be equal to the weight of an elephant or a small car," Kysar said.

"This is probably about 100 times stronger than the best steel you can buy."

It's got some way to go, but wow.
posted by jaduncan at 7:56 AM on June 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


(Also, the smartass in me wishes to point out that the pencil would break first. But that's spending too much time on MeFi for you).
posted by jaduncan at 7:57 AM on June 27, 2009


The Wikipedia entry for Graphene is insanely detailed
posted by Rubbstone at 8:01 AM on June 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


So which company's stock should we buy?
posted by jimmythefish at 8:06 AM on June 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


With the weight of the defense department behind it, graphene can only go up from here.

According to a Pentagon spokesman, with the weight of the defense department behind it, one of those $5000 pencils recently broke through into a muffin.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:12 AM on June 27, 2009 [7 favorites]


can i pre-order a few cc of rod logic yet?

fun stuff, graphene...here's a graph of the yield strength vs. density of all known materials including graphene, just to put it in perspective (it's the second image)
posted by sexyrobot at 9:13 AM on June 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


So which company's stock should we buy?

BASF and Vorbeck Materials appear to be the big players in graphene production. Vorbeck's privately owned though.
posted by signalnine at 10:04 AM on June 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


"The force required to push that pencil through the graphene would be equal to the weight of an elephant or a small car," Kysar said.

It's beside the point, but a small car weighs on the order of 2,500-3,000 lbs. The smallest elephant, the Sumatra, will weigh somewhere around 6,000 and the largest, in Africa, well above that, up to a reported 20,000 lbs or even more. But who's counting.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:05 AM on June 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


One potential roadblock to the use of graphene in mass production is the instability of graphene flakes. Researchers at Georgia Tech foresee a solution: “growing” graphene sheets on silicon carbide. According to the researchers, synthetic graphite sheets have the potential to achieve a higher level of quality, making them an alluring substitute for copper. In fact, they graphene could outperforms copper wire in connecting transistors and other integrated circuits.

So, we currently have no way of stably producing production quality versions of the stuff. This is all hand waving? But research is ongoing. So...what's the timetable until this becomes useful? 10 years? 20?
posted by redbeard at 10:06 AM on June 27, 2009


As a carbon-based entity, I approve.
posted by boo_radley at 11:45 AM on June 27, 2009


Rubbstone: "The Wikipedia entry for Graphene is insanely detailed"
Graphene's unique electronic properties produce an unexpectedly high opacity for an atomic monolayer, with a startlingly simple value: it absorbs πα ≈ 2.3% of white light, where α is the fine-structure constant
You can see, with the naked eye, a single mono-atomic layer of graphene. Therefore, this is perhaps the most awesome substance.
posted by boo_radley at 11:52 AM on June 27, 2009 [2 favorites]


Question: If graphite is just several layers of graphene stacked on top of each other, how would you make graphene, which is by definition a single layer of atoms, into a sheet the "thickness of saran wrap", without it just turning into graphite?
posted by danny the boy at 12:56 PM on June 27, 2009


danny the boy: IAmNotAMaterialsScientist but my guess is that it would be multiple single layer sheets, one stacked on the other, which is significantly different than one big blob like graphite would be.
posted by idiopath at 1:11 PM on June 27, 2009


IAmNotAMaterialsScientist but my guess is that it would be multiple single layer sheets, one stacked on the other, which is significantly different than one big blob like graphite would be.

Correct. Graphite is a 3D crystal where the layers interlock in a very precise pattern. That being said, graphite still conducts electricity but, funny enough, only on the same plane the whole way through (i.e. on a single plane of virtual graphene inside the graphite).
posted by Talez at 2:12 PM on June 27, 2009


Personally I find it insanely exciting that one material could provide both the circuits that enable us to keep up with Moore's Law (at least) and possibly build a space elevator.

Or a really fucking big computer! All the way to the sky!
posted by sourwookie at 2:24 PM on June 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


Guess I'll have to name my boat sumpthin else.
posted by ahimsakid at 3:33 PM on June 27, 2009


Graphene. Cool!
posted by darkstar at 5:04 PM on June 27, 2009


Graphene was discovered in 2004 by researchers at the University of Manchester and Chernogolovka, Russia

lolwhat

Graphite has been known to consist of sheets of carbon for decades, if not longer. Carbon nanotubes, which have been around a lot longer than 2004, are nothing more or less than rolled up graphene. Buckyballs, discovered certainly no later than 20 years ago and predicted 10-20 years before that, are a spherical version.

The wikipedia article isn't much clearer on exactly what this 2004 team did, but they certainly didn't "discover" it. Manufactured it free-standing, sounds like.
posted by DU at 5:25 PM on June 27, 2009


From the Wikipedia article:

The previous efforts did not result in graphene as we know it now, i.e. as "free standing" single-atom-thick crystals of a macroscopic size which are either suspended or interact only weakly with a substrate. It is not important whether graphene is suspended or placed on another (non-binding) substrate. In both cases, it is isolated and can be studied as such. Within this definition of graphene, it was first isolated by the Manchester group of Andre Geim who in 2004 finally managed to extract single-atom-thick crystallites from bulk graphite. He provided the first and unexpected proof for the existence of true (free-standing) 2D crystals. Previously, it was assumed that graphene cannot exist in the flat state and should scroll into nanotubes "to decrease the surface energy".
posted by XMLicious at 5:34 PM on June 27, 2009


Yes, that's the paragraph I'm calling "not much clearer".
posted by DU at 5:46 PM on June 27, 2009


They managed the feat of manufacturing it, and in so doing proved that it can survive as a coherent monolayer (and that it's possible to see it optically - not an insignificant manufacturing discovery). Bulk graphite, although made up of layers of what we now consider graphene, has drastically different properties and it's not at all a trivial difference to have separate free-standing graphene sheets. And while it's true that nanotubes were known before 2004, the sense in which nanotubes are "a rolled up sheet of graphene" is really more conceptual than practical; they're not grown by actually rolling up graphene, so their existence didn't demonstrate the viability of free-standing graphene sheets.

For what it's worth, though, a recent Nature paper managed to create graphene nanoribbons by slicing down the length of a nanotube. Very cool.
posted by you're a kitty! at 6:52 PM on June 27, 2009


Good point, DU, it's a poor use of the word "discovered".
posted by XMLicious at 8:44 PM on June 27, 2009


If this is so new, then what is my graphene calculator made out of?
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:47 PM on June 27, 2009 [3 favorites]


So this sort of carbon has a spherical and a flat form; how might it be made into a hyperbolic form?
posted by wobh at 10:31 PM on June 27, 2009


GRAPHENE WONDER MATERIAL OF THE FUTURE, is that what you meant, wobh?
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 11:55 PM on June 27, 2009 [1 favorite]


If all carbon rings have six atoms, the sheet is flat. If some of the rings have five atoms, the sheet deforms with positive (spherical) curvature. If some of the rings have seven atoms, it deforms with negative (hyperbolic) curvature.
posted by flabdablet at 3:13 PM on June 28, 2009


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