Since 2004 when it was first isolated, graphene—a one-atom thick, 2D crystal material extracted from graphite—has shown significant potential across multiple industries.

During the month of May, R&D Magazine took a special focus on graphene, featuring potential applications, challenges and specific organizations dedicated to furthering the development of the material.

We kicked off our coverage with What's Next for Graphene R&D, which highlighted a report from the market research firm IDTechEx on the graphene market today and possible future trends.

The report stated that investors from diverse backgrounds—including specialty chemicals, energy, steel, and consumer electronics— are working to launch new companies focusing on taking advantage of this material.

Significant efforts to further innovation and commercialization of graphene are also occurring where it was first discovered 13 years ago— the University of Manchester. We highlighted this area, known as ‘Graphene City’ in our article, Graphene City: Research Hub Accelerates Innovation.

The University of Manchester is home to over 250 researchers working on graphene and has over 70 industry partners, including high-profile companies Dyson, Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, Rolls-Royce, Samsung, Sharp, and Siemens.

Efforts to further graphene commercialization are also occurring in the U.S., particularly at the National Graphene Association (NGA), an organization working to connect those in academic and research arms with entrepreneurs, investors and commercial entities looking to produce graphene-based products. We highlighted this recently formed organization, based in Oxford, Miss., in our article, New Organization Drives Graphene Commercialization.

Graphene applications

R&D Magazine also featured several emerging applications for graphene as part of our special focus on the material.  

In our article, Graphene Membrane Withstands Ultrahigh Pressure, Shows Desalination Potential, we reported on the work of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who designed a graphene membrane that can withstand up to 100 bars of pressure. This opens graphene up to a number of new applications, including desalination, where filtration membranes that can withstand high-pressure flows can more efficiently remove salt from seawater.

We also featured exciting graphene research from a student team at the University of Alabama in the article, How Graphene Could Help Auto Manufacturers. As part of a national competition called EcoCar3, the team successfully fabricated a lighter hood created from graphene into a Chevy Camaro, proving the cutting-edge material can work on a consumer car.

Graphene also has sound engineering applications, which we featured in the article, Understanding Graphene's Potential Audio Applications. Researchers at the University of Exeter created a novel method that uses graphene to produce complex and controllable sound signals.

Finally, we highlighted scientists from Rutgers University-New Brunswick who developed a sensor that can be incorporated into a device that alerts a person with asthma when and at what dosage to take their medication, in the article, Graphene Sensor Could Help Predict Asthma Attacks.

The researchers utilized the properties of reduced graphene oxide to create the sensor because it is resilient to corrosion, while also exhibiting rapid electron transfer with electrolytes, allowing for highly sensitive electrochemical detection with minimal fouling.

Better understanding graphene

Several scientists have also made recent discoveries that furthered the understanding of the 2D material, which in many ways still remains a mystery. 

We featured Lloyd Hollenberg from the Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology (CQC2T) at the University of Melbourne in the article Diamond Quantum Probe Detects Electricity in Graphene.

His team developed a special quantum probe— based on an atomic sized color center found only in diamonds— to enable researchers to see the flow of electric currents in graphene. This technique could be used to investigate more exotic electric phenomena in graphene or other 2D materials.

Ryan Tian, associate professor of inorganic chemistry at the University of Arkansas, also recently solved one of the biggest challenges of working with graphene—the flammability of graphene oxide, a flake-like intermediate for making graphene from graphite. 

In the article, Researchers Solve Graphene’s Flammability Problem, Open Door to Large-Scale Production, we explained how Tian and his team overcame this challenge by using metal ions with three or more positive charges to bond graphene-oxide flakes into a transparent membrane.

June’s special focus

In June, we will continue our special coverage on an emerging area of R&D, highlighting bioelectronics, the study and application of electronics in medicine and biological processes. Check back on throughout the month to learn more about this exciting area of research that is revolutionizing science and healthcare.