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

  • Astronomers to eavesdrop on interstellar asteroid for possible signs of intelligent life

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Is anybody out there? That's the ancient question astronomers hope to answer by listening to a newly discovered asteroid that's paying us a visit from beyond our solar system. Scientists from Breakthrough Listen, an international program dedicated to searching for signals that may come from intelligent life beyond our own, want to listen in on the peculiar asteroid, named 'Oumuamua, to see whether any signals are coming from it. Source
  • 'Monster bird' fossil found in New Zealand

    Tech & Science CTV News
    The fossilised bones of an ancient penguin the size of a pro-wrestler have been discovered in New Zealand, scientists said Tuesday, dubbing the creature "monster bird." With an average height of 1.7 metres (5.5 feet) and a weight of 100 kilogrammes (220 pounds), the giant bird is thought to be one of the world's biggest extinct penguin species, easily dwarfing its cuddly-looking modern descendants. Source
  • North American birders flock to N.B. tree after rare bird from Europe spotted

    Tech & Science CTV News
    MIRAMICHI, N.B. -- New Brunswick has a rare visitor from Europe and it's attracting bird lovers from across Canada and the United States. A European mistle thrush arrived in Miramichi on Saturday, and decided to stay. Source
  • Birth of new island could help search for life on Mars: NASA

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NASA researchers are studying the formation of a new Pacific Ocean island in order to find clues for where to search for past life on Mars. Located in the South Pacific nation of Tonga, Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai began forming after the eruption of an underwater volcano in Dec. Source
  • Fetid attraction: London fatberg to go on museum display

    Tech & Science CTV News
    LONDON -- Part of a monster fatberg that clogged one of London's sewers is destined for fame in a museum. The Museum of London says it will put the only remaining chunk of the 130-metric-ton (143-U.S. Source
  • Telescope to scan mysterious cigar-shaped asteroid for signs of alien technology

    Tech & Science CTV News
    If E.T. has a cellphone, astronomers are hoping to find it. Researchers will use a listening telescope to search for signs of alien technology on ‘Oumuamua, the mysterious, fast-moving, cigar-shaped interstellar object currently speeding through our solar system. Source
  • Pregnant woman wants seat on Tokyo metro: there's an app for that

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Pregnant women struggling to bag a seat on the famously packed Tokyo subway could find their salvation in a new app connecting them with nearby passengers willing to give up their coveted perch. The digital match-making app being trialled this week on the metro aims to overcome two problems especially prevalent in Japan: passengers generally have their nose buried in their phones and talking is strictly frowned upon. Source
  • SpaceX delivery via recycled rocket delayed a day

    Tech & Science CTV News
    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - SpaceX has delayed its latest grocery run for the International Space Station for at least a day. The company now aims to launch its first recycled rocket for NASA on Wednesday. Source
  • Arctic report card: Permafrost thawing faster than before

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEW ORLEANS - A new report finds permafrost in the Arctic is thawing faster than ever before. The annual report card released Tuesday also finds water is warming and sea ice is melting at the fastest pace in 1,500 years at the top of the world. Source
  • Tokyo airport to be 'scattered' with robots for 2020 Olympics

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Visitors to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics can expect to arrive at an airport "scattered" with robots to help them, an official said Tuesday as he unveiled seven new machines to perform tasks from helping with luggage to language assistance. Source