Graphene material could lead to bendable phones, unbreakable touch screens

Bendable mobile phones, quick-charge batteries and unbreakable touch screens -- technology firms are racing to harness the potential of graphene, a wonder material which scientists say could transform consumer electronics.

See Full Article

A fine sheet of pure carbon, graphene is as thin as an atom, making it the skinniest material known.

At the same time though, it is 100 times stronger than steel, hugely pliable and can conduct electricity and heat better than anything else.

"There are other materials which do have one of those properties each," physicist Kostya Novoselov -- who first isolated graphene in 2004 -- said at the Mobile World Congress, the sector's biggest trade fair, in Barcelona.

"What is amazing here is that all those qualities are combined in one simple crystal.

"Of course that immediately leaves us with a number of possible applications."

Graphene patents soar

Novoselov, a Russian-born British citizen, and his colleague at Manchester University Andre Geim won the Nobel Prize for their work with graphene, sparking a flurry of interest in the new material.

The number of patents involving graphene soared from under 50 in 2004 to around 9,000 in 2014, according to Andrew Garland of research firm Future Markets, who puts out a twice-yearly report on the material.

"Most are in electronics," he said.

Samsung, the world's number one smartphone maker, has taken out the most graphene patents -- over 490 -- followed by China's Ocean's King Lighting and IBM.

While its real-world uses so far remain modest, research into possible applications for the material picked up steam in Europe after the European Union set aside one billion euros ($1.1 billion) in 2013 to be spent over ten years to investigate.

"We believe we require another ten years to get to the point where a lot of devices will start being on the market," said Andrea Ferrari, director of the Cambridge Graphene Centre at the University of Cambridge.

The trade fair in Barcelona for the first time had a pavilion dedicated to graphene research centres and start-ups, a sign of the growing importance of the material to the mobile industry.

'Can support an elephant'

Graphene is so pliable scientists predict it will one day make flexible phones possible.

British firm FlexEnable showcased a smartwatch prototype made using graphene that wraps around a user's wrist and features a full colour LCD display that is capable of running video content.

"This sort of display technology is basically ushering in a completely new generation of mobile devices because we can start folding electronics," said the company's technical director, Mike Banach.

British tech firm Zap&Go, meanwhile, displayed a graphene charger for mobile phones and tablets that takes just five minutes to fully load with power.

The company is making 2,000 versions to give to journalists and to people who pre-order them, said the company's marketing director, Simon Harris.

"What we have here ultimately could replace the lithium-ion battery in billions of devices. It needs to come down in size and up in power," he added.

Graphene is so strong and thin that researchers believe they will one day be able to use it to make unbreakable screens for mobile devices.

"With just a few kilos you can replace all the touchscreens in the word. With just a few layers on top of each other you can support an elephant," said Vittorio Pellegrini, director of the Italian Institute of Technology's Graphene Labs.

"Graphene is really a material that allows our imagination to fly. There is no limit to what you can do," he added.



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • Black hole gets unusual 'kick' out of galaxy core thanks to gravitational waves

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A team of international researchers got a bit of a shock recently when a supermassive black hole — something that normally anchors the centre of a galaxy — was spotted speeding away from its home. The reason? Gravitational waves, says the research team. Source
  • Bad breath: Study finds array of bacteria when orcas exhale

    Tech & Science CTV News
    SEATTLE -- When the mighty orca breaks to the surface and exhales, the whale sprays an array of bacteria and fungi in its his breath, scientists said, some good, and some bad such as salmonella. Source
  • Trump's proposed NASA cuts take aim at Earth science

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Officials at NASA were delighted that U.S. President Donald Trump's budget proposal allocates $19.1 billion for the agency, down only 0.8 per cent from last year, but the proposal also cuts several programs to study the Earth. Source
  • 'Call of Duty' gamers converge on Toronto for national championship

    Tech & Science CTV News
    TORONTO -- Many people have a go-to tool at work. For Andrew Ivers, it's a KBAR-32 this weekend. The 19-year-old from Toronto is a professional gamer who hopes to use his virtual assault rifle to help Team GIRG win the Cineplex WorldGaming "Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare" tournament final Sunday. Source
  • Apple: Software flaws in latest WikiLeaks docs are all fixed

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Apple said purported hacking vulnerabilities disclosed by WikiLeaks this week have all been fixed in recent iPhones and Mac computers. The documents released by the anti-secrecy site Thursday morning pointed to an apparent CIA program to hack Apple devices using techniques that users couldn't disable by resetting their devices. Source
  • Spacewalking astronauts prep space station for new parking spot

    Tech & Science CBC News
    ?Spacewalking astronauts prepped the International Space Station on Friday for a new parking spot reserved for commercial crew capsules. The 402-kilometre-high complex already has one docking port in place for the SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing Starliner, which should start carrying up astronauts as early as next year. Source
  • Skin powered by the sun? Prosthetic limbs with better sense of touch being developed

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Amputees with prosthetic limbs may soon have much a better sense of touch, temperature and texture, thanks to the energy-saving power of the sun, British researchers said on Thursday. While prosthetics are usually fully powered using batteries, a new prototype from University of Glasgow researchers opens up the possibility for so-called "solar-powered skin," which would include better sense capabilities than current technology. Source
  • Spacewalking astronauts prep station for new parking spot

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Astronauts ventured out on a spacewalk Friday to prep the International Space Station for a new parking spot. NASA's Shane Kimbrough and France's Thomas Pesquet emerged early from the orbiting complex, then went their separate ways to accomplish as much as possible 250 miles up. Source
  • U.S.-born panda Bao Bao makes first appearance in China

    Tech & Science CTV News
    DUJIANGYAN, China -- American-born giant panda Bao Bao made her first appearance Friday before the public in southwestern China following her move there from Washington, D.C. Bao Bao was born at the National Zoo in Washington to pandas on loan from China. Source
  • CIA hacked Apple devices in ways users can't fix, Wikileaks says

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEW YORK -- New documents from WikiLeaks point to an apparent CIA program to hack Apple's iPhones and Mac computers using techniques that users couldn't disable by resetting their devices. Security experts say the exploits are plausible, but suggest they pose little threat to typical users. Source