David Kirkpatrick

August 6, 2009

Practical graphene

The previous post was a bit of skylarking on practical solar power, this post is right here on the ground about a current practical application for graphene. I have a feeling I’ve have the opportunity to do many more posts along these lines about the highly touted nanomaterial.

From the first link:

A startup company in Jessup, MD, hopes later this year to bring to market one of the first products based on the nanomaterial graphene. Vorbeck Materials is making conductive inks based on graphene that can be used to print RFID antennas and electrical contacts for flexible displays. The company, which is banking on the low cost of the graphene inks, has an agreement with the German chemical giant BASF and last month received $5.1 million in financing from private-investment firm Stoneham Partners.

Since it was first created in the lab in 2004, graphene has been hailed as a wonder material: the two-dimensional sheets of carbon atoms are the strongest material ever tested, and graphene’s electrical properties make it a potential replacement for silicon in faster computer chips. Synthesizing pristine graphene of the quality needed to make transistors, though, remains a painstaking process that, as yet, can’t be done on an industrial scale, though researchers are working on this problem.

Vorbeck Materials is making what company scientific advisor Ilhan Aksay calls “defective” graphene in large quantities. Though the electrical properties of the graphene aren’t good enough to support transistors, it’s still strong and conductive.

Vorbeck Materials licensed their method for making “crumpled” graphene from Aksay, a professor of chemical engineering at Princeton University. Vorbeck Materials says the inks made with this crumpled graphene are conductive and cheap enough to compete with silver and carbon inks currently used in displays and RFID-tag antennas. (Another startup working on defective graphene, Graphene Energy of Austin, TX, is using a similar form of the material to make electrodes for ultracapacitors.)

Crumpled graphene: Conductive inks made by startup company Vorbeck Materials contain crumpled graphene. This atomic-force microscope image is colorized to show the topography of a piece of graphene of the type used in the inks; red areas are higher and blue are lower. Credit: Ilhan Aksay and Hannes Schniepp

Crumpled graphene: Conductive inks made by startup company Vorbeck Materials contain crumpled graphene. This atomic-force microscope image is colorized to show the topography of a piece of graphene of the type used in the inks; red areas are higher and blue are lower. Credit: Ilhan Aksay and Hannes Schniepp

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