The answer to the question, “What is graphene?” can become really rather complex. With new research findings published every day, and new properties emerging with these findings, graphene is a substance that defies easy definition. Yet, at its simplest level it is something that can be understood by any average ability school child. Indeed, its inauspicious origins have probably been re-enacted hundreds of times over in school art classes and science lessons around the globe.
Graphene is simply an allotrope of Carbon. That is to say that it is one of the structural forms that pure carbon atoms can arrange themselves; the other allotropes being diamond, graphite, buckminsterfullerenes, glassy carbon and carbon nanofoam. It was first discovered by Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov in 2004, following an experiment in a Manchester University laboratory involving a graphite pencil and a strip of sticky tape. What was discovered by the two researchers after increasingly refined and sophisticated adaptations to the basic experiment was a single, one atom deep layer of graphite. Properly known as graphene, this single sheet of atoms went on to break all number of records for its material properties, and its discovery was hailed as being of such scientific and human value that in 2010 the Award of the Nobel prize was granted to Geim and Novoselov.
When answering the question “What is graphene?” it is important to remember that graphene continues to be one of the most promising scientific discoveries of the 21st century and developments in the field seem to occur on a daily basis. The research section of this site is dedicated to tracking the most interesting of these developments, although in most cases the actual science extends beyond the scope and interest of the site. What you will find herein is a variety of resources useful to potential investors; so the science is focused on market applications and the investment research focused on identifying companies in which the market impact of graphene based science is set to have a major effect. The article on the graphene revolution offers possibly the best introduction to how the markets are set to be influenced by graphene over the next half century. Similarly, the graphene market report by Technavio is also worth consulting for its insight into market projections that suggest a compound annual growth rate of 58.7% over the period 2015-2020.
Graphene has been lauded as a miracle material, and certainly it deserves such a label from a scientific standpoint. Whether the term can be applied to graphene in the sense of its financial impact is something that only time will reveal. Answering “What is graphene?” from a financial perspective is perhaps the more relevant question for investors. It seems certain that graphene will play an increasing part in the development of new technologies and may even replace silicon as the material of the electronic age. Graphene Valley may become the centre of a new economic milieu. As Andre Geim suggests, “We’re on the verge of graphene-based technologies… In ten years time graphene will be as common as silicon is today.”
What is Graphene? Update.
In May of 2012 a team of researchers at Iowa State University discovered two new properties of graphene that had been hitherto concealed. The findings lend credence to the idea that the full potential of the material remains largely unexplored.
The team from Iowa have extended the answer to the question “What is graphene?” by showing that graphene has two other physical properties that may find a use in high-speed telecommunications devices and laser technology – namely, population inversion of electrons and broadband optical gain.
That population inversion is a phenomenon rarely recorded in nature is testament to the peculiar nature of graphene. What it actually means is that graphene produces an optical gain from the infrared to the visible, which in turn means that when you shine a laser onto a graphene sheet more visible light comes out than goes in.