A new investment in graphene science has been slowly unfolding in a small university department in the South of England. The eponymous, and rather awkwardly titled, “GraphExeter” is the result of the work of the University of Exeter’s Centre For Graphene Science and is one of those discoveries that somehow manages to add to the graphene family’s list of superlative qualities.
GraphExeter is the most transparent, lightweight and flexible material ever for conducting electricity. It surpasses graphene, whose sheet resistance has always been a concern, and is much more flexible than indium tin oxide (ITO), the current choice of material for touch screen technology.
With the supply of ITO expected to dry up by 2017 the discovery of GraphExeter may be just the replacement needed to extend the lifetime of touchscreen devices. And touchscreens are not its only potential use; the GraphExeter research team report that the potential uses extend to computerised clothing, or “smart teeshirts,” flexible electronics, ‘smart’ mirrors or windows, with computerised interactive features, and since this material is also transparent over a wide light spectrum, it could enhance by more than 30% the efficiency of solar panels.
So, what’s the filling in the GraphExeter sandwich? Well, GraphExeter is constructed from few layer graphene intercalated with ferric chloride (FeCl3). The ferric chloride sits between the graphene sheets and has been found to enhance the electrical conductivity of the graphene, without affecting the material’s transparency.
Speaking on the announcement, lead researcher, University of Exeter engineer Dr Monica Craciun said:
“GraphExeter could revolutionise the electronics industry. It outperforms any other carbon-based transparent conductor used in electronics and could be used for a range of applications, from solar panels to ‘smart’ teeshirts. We are very excited about the potential of this material and look forward to seeing where it can take the electronics industry in the future.”
The team are now working on a spray version of GraphExeter that would make the physical application of the material much more scalable.
Read the paper from Advanced Materials.