Graphene – The next revolution in smartphone touchscreen

Graphene is a pure carbon in the form of a very thin, nearly transparent sheet, one atom thick. It is remarkably strong for its very low weight (100 times stronger than steel) and it conducts heat and electricity with great efficiency.

While scientists had theorized about graphene for decades, it was first produced in the lab in 2003.Because it is virtually two-dimensional, it interacts oddly with light and with other materials. Researchers have identified the bipolar transistor effect, ballistic transport of charges and large quantum oscillations, as mentioned in Wikipedia.  

Graphene, an emerging material that could change the way electronic components are made and help computing performance continue to grow, is everywhere in the research world these days. It could boost internet speeds, serve as a touch sensitive coating and extend the lives of computers. It is stronger than diamond and conducts electricity and heat better than any material ever discovered, and it will likely play an important role in many products and processes in the future.  

The wonder material Graphene is set to revolutionize the smartphone industry by replacing current touchscreen technology, researchers have claimed.Currently, the majority of tablets and smartphones are made using indium tin oxide, which is both expensive and inflexible. Crack a screen and you’ll know about the first of those problems.

The second might start to become apparent if the industry starts to produce bendable communications devices, perhaps in the form of smartwatches which could clearly benefit from a bit of flexibility.Graphene is considerably cheaper than the materials used in most modern smartphones.  

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Graphene Crystal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)  

Dr Alan Dalton of the University of Surrey led the investigation into the new material. Working alongside researchers at the University of Dublin, he oversaw the production of hybrid electrodes, the “building blocks of touchscreen technology”, using silver nanowires and graphene.“The growing market in devices such as wearable technology and bendable smart displays poses a challenge to manufacturers.

They want to offer consumers flexible, touchscreen technology but at an affordable and realistic price. At the moment, this market is severely limited in the materials to hand, which are both very expensive to make and designed for rigid, flat devices.”  

Dr IzabelaJurewicz of the University of Surrey said, “Our work has cut the amount of expensive nanowires required to build such touchscreens by more than fifty times as well as simplifying the production process. We achieved this using graphene, a material that can conduct electricity and interpret touch commands whilst still being transparent.”

The team is currently working with industrial partners to “implement the research into future devices”.Don’t expect to be buying a smartphone with a graphene screen any time though, because truly scalable production of the material is still little more than an ambition.  

The use of graphene in everyday life is not far off, due in part to existing research into carbon nanotubes — the rolled, cylindrical version of graphene. The tubes were popularized by a 1991 paper (subscription required) and touted for their incredible physical qualities, most of which are very similar to graphene.

But it is easier to produce large sheets of graphene and it can be made in a similar way to silicon. Many of the current and planned applications for carbon nanotubes are now being adapted to graphene.  

Graphene is transparent (it transmits up to 97.7% of light), and it also has low electrical resistance and is flexible. Therefore, it’s a good candidate for flexible electronics and screens. Samsung, for example, is developing the transparent graphene electrodes to serve as smartphone touchscreens.Researchers out of Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology have developed highly porous graphene-based super capacitors that they, “can fully charge in just 16 seconds and have repeated this some 10,000 times without a significant reduction in capacitance.”

Imagine charging your iPhone in 30 seconds, or your Tesla in a few minutes.Graphene could be used in many applications such as energy storage, desalinization, filtration, medical applications, solar cells, material composites, computing, electronics and many more. 


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