Following the ground breaking work by Prof. Andre Geim and Prof. Konstantin Novoselov in 2004, graphene has been heralded to revolutionise the 21st Century through its exceptional physical and mechanical properties in applications ranging from transparent electronics to supercapacitors and ultra-strong composites, advanced batteries and high efficiency solar panels.
Graphenes are composed of carbon and can be visualised as a monolayer of graphite, arranged in a crystalline, hexagonal lattice.
The term ‘graphene’ which originally described a single 2-D sheet of carbon atoms, has gradually been widened to encompass both sheet and flake carbon materials produced by a variety of methods. Engineering applications tend to focus on the use of Graphene Nanoplatelets (GNPs). These materials can be produced by a ‘top down’ production method involving the exfoliation of mined graphite to produce flakes, or ‘bottom up’ by a method such as chemical vapour deposition from a carbon source. Experimental characterisation has revealed that graphene is mechanically 200 times stronger than steel, has in-plane electrical conductivity higher than copper, thermal conductivity similar to diamond and has an incredible surface area of over 2500m2 per gram.
The particulate graphene form can be produced in large quantities in various thicknesses. Few Layer Graphene (FLGs) comprises several atomic layers of carbon, and so-called many-layer graphene, or Graphene Nanoplatelets (GNPs) typically comprise 5-100 layers. Thereafter the material can be described as graphite. The challenge is how to translate these properties measured in the laboratory into commercial applications, especially as graphenes are effectively inert?
More information on graphene can be found by going to The University of Manchester website