Back to the Building Blocks: Carbon and Innovation
November 19, 2015
The discovery of graphene changed the world. Scientists Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov, took graphite and peeled away at it, pulling out an individual layer and discovering more about it's amazing qualities. Suddenly, everyone was clamoring to see what they could do with it and offer to the world. Now what is graphene? Jesus De La Fuente, CEO of Graphenea says it like this: In simple terms, graphene, is a thin layer of pure carbon; it is a single, tightly packed layer of carbon atoms that are bonded together in a hexagonal honeycomb lattice. Easy to understand right? Scientists continue to study and find new uses for graphene. Its incredible strength and ability is almost unimaginable, a material so thin could still be stronger than steel. But the latest developments with graphene isn't focused on its strength. The abilities that graphene grants from its wide spectral range are currently the buzz.
Scientists earlier this year were able to create 3D holographic images at the Swinburne University of Technology in Australia. "The Swinburne researchers were able to create the floating 3D display by tweaking the refractive index - the measure of how much light bends as it passes through a medium - of graphene oxide.
This allowed them to create tiny, nanoscale pixels that make up floating 3D images, visible to the naked eye" says Fiona Macdonald at ScienceAlert.com. This image might seem a bit unimpressive, but remember that this is just the beginning. It seems that it won't be long until these holographic capabilities are adapted into our daily lives through wearable tech and other gadgets.
Researchers have discovered a way to give people night vision, without the clunky gear the military uses. The current technology are either cooled detector infrared cameras that require the equipment to be cryogenically cooled to below 200K in order to filter out the noise, hence the size and inefficient size; the other choice is uncooled, but need to be temperature stabilized at room temperature, or is simply unstabilized.
MIT's researchers have provided the world with a new alternative: graphene-based contact lenses, which are only one-atom layer thick. Now this ultra-thin contact lens will provide not only more efficiency, but also more capability. Current standards of night vision goggles are limited in which infrared wavelengths are readable, where as this new sensor they developed at MIT will cover the full infrared spectrum. After integrating a silicon microelectromechanical system (MEMS) as well, there will no longer be a need for cryogenic cooling.
These night vision contacts might not seem entirely useful or beneficial to the average person, but keep in mind this tech can be applied to vehicles as well. MailOnline wrote an article about how graphene could be built into windshields of cars, to help better detect things during the night time hours. Just imagining what this could do for drivers is amazing, but if we apply this to self-driving cars? It could increase the safety of these vehicles, since the cameras they use for detection aren't as clear in the darker hours.
Graphene is definitely a material that we will see in more and more equipment and products in our daily lives. These developments in technology are incredible and I can't wait to see what happens next.