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Will Graphene Revolutionize the 21st Century? 345

Posted by samzenpus
from the step-right-up dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Much has been made of graphene's potential. It can be used for anything from composite materials — like how carbon-fiber is used currently — to electronics. 'Our research establishes Graphene as the strongest material ever measured, some 200 times stronger than structural steel,' mechanical engineering professor James Hone, of Columbia University, said in a statement. If graphene can be compared to the way plastic is used today, everything from crisp packets to clothing could be digitized once the technology is established. The future could see credit cards contain as much processing power as your current smartphone."
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Will Graphene Revolutionize the 21st Century?

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  • by sfranklin (95470) on Sunday May 22, 2011 @01:19PM (#36210404) Journal

    At the end of the article: "But the main thing is to be truthful and not exaggerate because we actually have to deliver." When there are some real-world examples, then graphene will be worth reading about.

  • by michelcolman (1208008) on Sunday May 22, 2011 @01:24PM (#36210448)
    Don't smartphones already have all their processing power contained inside something smaller than a credit card? The rest is just battery, screen, antenna,...
  • by gone.fishing (213219) on Sunday May 22, 2011 @01:37PM (#36210518) Journal

    I think graphene will probably fulfill some promises and fall flat with others. Since carbon (which graphene is) is a semiconductor I am more hopeful for it to become an efficient electronic resource. Because it is a semiconductor, I am less hopeful that it will become a better battery (carbon has been used in batteries for years but it's electrical leakage eventually drains an unused battery). As a material I expect that it will have the same shortcomings that carbon fiber has - in order to be strongest it needs to be pure which has proven difficult to achieve and therefore expensive. Graphene itself is expensive to manufacture. Is it even possible to chain it together to make long chains of it? I don't know but do know it is hard to do it with carbon fiber. What are the health consequences of making it, using it, or wearing it? So many things seem promising but end up being very bad (asbestos, lead, VOC's) that I am not sure it will launch. Seems like a submicroscopic sharp hard item may cause problems in the lungs.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 22, 2011 @01:39PM (#36210540)

    Oh get over it. We do not have anything near the capabilities or even materials for such a structure. And even if we did, space is still empty. All that work for what? Better access to emptiness? You have a very poor understanding of reality.

    And you have a very poor imagination and sense of exploration. If nothing else, it would make maintaining our orbital space much cheaper. Combined with solar sails and asteroid mining, this could make space exploration drop to almost free in terms of the cost to our planet.

    Then we could finally get off this rock so if we don't figure out how to make it work here, at least we have some options to start over with. Then again, from a moral perspective, I continue to wonder if we need to make it work here, before we start fucking up the rest of the galaxy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 22, 2011 @01:46PM (#36210572)

    Wait for the patent trolls to join the party and tell me which century this will revolutionize.

  • by turbidostato (878842) on Sunday May 22, 2011 @02:05PM (#36210730)

    And you have a very poor imagination and sense of "exploration."

    Or he has a stronger sense of reality than you.

    "If nothing else, it would make maintaining our orbital space much cheaper."

    Or not. You talked about imagination, let's test yours: can you imagine what could happen when you put a space elevator sweeping out a full of space debris low orbit at some few thousands miles per hour?

    "Then we could finally get off this rock so if we don't figure out how to make it work here, at least we have some options to start over with."

    Where? as per the grandparent, once you get there, you'll see it's still an emptiness. Are you meaning other planet within the Solar system? It'll take a bit more than graphene to stablish a self supporting colony there. Out the Solar system? It'll take a bit more than graphene to convince Einstein to allow us to go faster than light.

  • by Smallpond (221300) on Sunday May 22, 2011 @02:06PM (#36210734) Homepage Journal

    Oh get over it. We do not have anything near the capabilities or even materials for such a structure. And even if we did, space is still empty. All that work for what? Better access to emptiness? You have a very poor understanding of reality.

    And you have a very poor imagination and sense of exploration. If nothing else, it would make maintaining our orbital space much cheaper. Combined with solar sails and asteroid mining, this could make space exploration drop to almost free in terms of the cost to our planet.

    Then we could finally get off this rock so if we don't figure out how to make it work here, at least we have some options to start over with. Then again, from a moral perspective, I continue to wonder if we need to make it work here, before we start fucking up the rest of the galaxy.

    Is that the same way that nuclear power was going to make electricity almost free? I've seen industry claims from the 50s that nuclear power would be so cheap they would stop putting meters on houses.

    A space elevator would be cool, but it would still be the most expensive thing to build and maintain ever.

  • by tmosley (996283) on Sunday May 22, 2011 @03:57PM (#36211560)
    Uhhh, except this technology is the only one we were lacking, and we have it now.

    In space, there are resources. Lots of them. There are places where you can stick a 4000 square mile array of solar panels that will be lit for all but a few minutes each year. There are infinite amounts of metals, and fissile materials. There is SPACE to establish a new home for those sick of the Earth and her decadent ways.

    But thanks for deciding what is best for everyone, and what is even possible. We really appreciate it.
  • by hedgemage (934558) on Sunday May 22, 2011 @04:02PM (#36211606)
    "According to the Nobel prize committee, a hypothetical one-metre-square hammock of perfect graphene could support a four-kilogram cat - the hammock would weigh 0.77 milligrams, less than a cat's whisker, and would be virtually invisible." - Richard Van Noorden, Nature Magazine

    I'm glad that someone is addressing the need for invisible cat hammocks. FINALLY!
  • by msauve (701917) on Sunday May 22, 2011 @04:34PM (#36211830)
    "How about silver, which projections have shown that we will be OUT OF in twenty years? "

    Really? Alchemy works? What is all the silver getting transmuted to?
  • by Iamthecheese (1264298) on Sunday May 22, 2011 @04:50PM (#36211924)

    It makes me sad that you were modded interesting. Your argument is shortsighted blather with a whiff of ad hominem.

    We all know what space is (huge, mostly empty, dangerous) but only you fail to acknowledge what it isn't. (an unsurmountable obstacle) People like you tried to stopped people from flying. The fact that technology isn't advanced enough to conquer space* without unacceptable sacrifice proves nothing about tomorrow.

    *Yes I said "conquer space". There are tremendous resources to be exploited and a universe of possibilities and I'm sorry you're too stuck in your pessimism to see that.

  • For the exact reasons we've been talking about, and things like graphene have been hinting at; we don't have the materials to make a space elevator. We have the know how, and the imagination and opportunities with the sorts of things we could do if we had one, but so far have been unable to build one since the strongest material we have is just not strong enough to be useful (at least, not without it being absurdly heavy and impractical).

    Seems sort of obvious, really. We launch things into space right now at huge cost that modern society has come to rely on and at the very least expect - satellites (GPS, communications, TV, weather, science), and we're limited in what else we can send up there due to the huge cost of working against the Earth's gravity well by brute forcing it. Even if we don't decide to go out and mine asteroids, or mine helium from the moon, launching satellites that we use right now every single day for hundreds of reasons would be considerably cheaper with an elevator that exploited the angular momentum of the Earth... if you can find a material that is strong enough to built it out of.

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