How This Stronger-Than-Steel Material Could Change the World Graphene is 200 times stronger than steel, lighter than paper and razor-thin. If you haven't heard of it yet, you will.
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Graphene is just one atom thick, but it's poised to cast a wide shadow over the future of business. Some 200 times stronger than steel yet lighter than paper and more flexible than a contortionist, graphene is hailed as a miracle material with the potential to revolutionize products and processes across industries from consumer electronics to biomedicine.
First isolated in 2004 by physicists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, who won a Nobel Prize for their efforts, graphene is essentially a crystalline carbon allotrope with two-dimensional properties. Its atoms are packed in a hexagonal pattern that resembles chicken wire, and it's so thin, it's virtually transparent. The unique structure translates to thermal, electrical and magnetic properties no other material can match, and the commercial applications are almost limitless. For example, graphene's flexibility could lead to breakthroughs in wearable devices, and its feather-light weight could yield more streamlined, fuel-efficient aircraft. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has even donated $100,000 to the University of Manchester to help fund development of graphene-based condoms.
"Graphene has so much potential for use in many different businesses and many different areas," says Elena Polyakova, CEO of Long Island, N.Y.-based Graphene Laboratories, whose Graphene Supermarket supplies nanocarbon and graphene products to more than 7,000 enterprise and academic customers. "It can replace many materials that are currently on the market."