graphene futureEvery ten years or so, we learn about a new scientific development that is so highly anticipated that people start whispering about the ways things are going to change for the better.

Most of the time, this material never gets past the first hurdle and after a while, we kind of shudder when that word is mentioned. So the latest of this genre is a material called Graphene, and this article is discussing whether or not it will match the hype and actually become part of our future.

Graphene Basics

Just for arguments’ sake we will assume that you have never heard of Graphene and would like a quick guide, so here it is:

  • Graphene is a material that is 200 times stronger than steel yet a million times thinner than paper.
  • It has amazing conductive qualities and is transparent.
  • Graphene is also extremely flexible.

The Rub

It doesn’t take a genius to think of a use for this type of material, but it’s going to take a thousand of them to solve the current problem facing mass production of Graphene. There are a number of multinational companies, including Intel, IBM and Samsung, who are currently trying to fix the issue. It has proven extremely challenging to produce Graphene on a large scale, and very expensive indeed. Essentially they need to find a way to extract this material from a variety of base elements albeit to industrial quantity requirements.

The Race

Just imagine the bragging rights and the cash bonanza that awaits the first company to produce Graphene on a large scale, and we are talking about a very large prize here. If you could imagine a who’s who of the technology world, you’ll get an idea of who is in this race to the stars. And whoever wins the competition will have the patent on that process, worth billions and billions.

So What’s Next?

If you think about having this ultra-fine, yet impossibly strong material as part of our lives, it’s hard not to get a little excited. Your windows would be unbreakable, computer speeds would be amazingly quick and apparently we’ll be able to use Graphene to filter the salt out of sea water. If only they could get that production issue sorted before we all get too old.

Scientific Failures

There have been a number of scientific announcements over the last twenty years that have certainly caught the public’s attention in a similar way to Graphene:

  • Nuclear Fusion on a small scale – Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann announced that they could solve the world’s energy problems with their bespoke way of supplicating the source of the sun – except they hadn’t and couldn’t.
  • The Rock of Life – In 1996 NASA announced that they had found traces of bacteria on a Mars Meteorite. It was called ‘one of the most important dates in human history’. Except it wasn’t and similar traces were found in uninhabited parts of the Antarctic – d’oh.
  • Silicone Implants – Every lady with a small chest dreamed about having these bad boys implanted. But when Pamela Anderson decided that they were dangerous, a ton of lawsuits followed and many ladies went back to being flat chested. But eventually there was no proof of any immune issues and they were favourites once more.
  • Y2K – Enough said…


The Future

The question remains then, will Graphene change our world? Well, if they can actually find a way to bring this uber-material to our loves, the answer is definitely yes. But if these multinational companies continue to work alone for that Golden Fleece, the jury will remain out for a very long time indeed. Here’s a little idea, why not combine the powers of the world’s scientific geniuses, forget the patent, forget the cash prize and work together for the same goal – mankind.

John Hinds writes for Lojix. His interests include blogging, reading, playing tennis, listening to music and traveling.