Graphene Greatness

by Raina Koshal

In 2004, when scientists Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov put a piece of scotch tape on graphite, little did they know that the layer of carbon atoms they received would spark a scientific revolution and global race to discover and implement the properties of “the wonder material,” graphene. Only six years after the discovery, the two scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. Naturally, the question arises- what property of this two-dimensional lattice structure of carbon atoms makes it that extraordinary? The answer is not one, but numerous properties that possess the potential to revolutionize every industry. Graphene is extraordinarily thin, strong, stretchable, and hard. Furthermore, it is environmentally friendly and adequately available. Such uniqueness comes with demand- according to the global market report, Graphene’s market size was “estimated at USD 78.7 million in 2019 and is expected to expand at a CAGR of 38.7% from 2020 to 2027”. So what’s holding industries back from the globalization and mass manufacturing of graphene? Firstly, there is still space for improvement in creating economically feasible production methods. The Executive director of The Graphene Council, Terrance Barkan, has a different perspective, stating that graphene’s true potential lies in combining small amounts with other materials to enhance their properties- small amounts lead to inexpensive production. Nonetheless, economic feasibility with companies’ unfamiliarity with the product, are big factors. Additionally, US-based companies are less able to implement the material as they receive less support from the government, making them behind the UK and China in graphene advances. It is also important to recognize there are many big-name companies already testing graphene for their products: Samsung has racked up over 400 patents with mentions of graphene and IBM launched a five-year, three billion dollar initiative working toward using graphene as a silicon replacement. The industry is progressing quickly. In an interview with Dr. Cerne, a professor at The University of Buffalo, he recalls a flake of graphene, twenty microns in size, cost “hundreds and hundreds of dollars” ten years ago and now he can get the “same sheet of graphene for a hundred bucks”.