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October 09, 2022 4 min read 8 Comments

Graphene is playing an increasingly significant role in the world we live in today, and this significance will only grow as technology is integrated into more aspects of life. For instance, graphene enhanced fabric is extremely efficient at keeping you warm or cool in any climate. It doesn’t absorb moisture but dry quickly. It is antibacterial and doesn’t need ironing and still feels as soft as the most delicate Italian garments. Graphene-X, a company lead by Jorge Barros is bringing these possibilities to life. This is just a one example; this article aims to shed light on the top profound graphene innovations that can lift us out of our dormancy and propel us into the future.

  1. Extraction of Gold from Electronic Waste

E-waste is the fastest-growing solid waste in the world and poses threats to human health and the environment. The most valuable component of e-waste is gold. However, less than 20% of e-waste has currently been recycled so far, primarily for lack of recycling technology. In this regard, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have turned electronic waste into gold by using reduced graphene oxide (r-GO). According to their study, 1 g of rGO can extract ~ 2 g of gold within 10 minutes with exceptional selectivity and close to 100% recovery. This study demonstrated a promising venue for addressing global e-waste challenges and when scaled commercially, it might turn this recycling challenge into a profitable business.

  1. Longer Lasting Roads

Asphalt which is a mixture of aggregates, binder, and filler is an important construction material used for maintaining roads. However, even expertly laid asphalt will eventually fall victim to the ravages of time, showing cracks, moisture damage, path holes and other damages.

To address these issues, National Highway UK reported a successful pilot of GiPave (graphene enhanced asphalt) in Curbridge, Marsh Lane and very recently in Essex. The team reported the use of graphene increases the lifespan of the road surface by up to 70%, thereby reducing the need for resurfacing work. Interestingly, the team also predicted that the graphene enhanced asphalt will lead to reduced carbon emissions. Altogether, I must say with graphene, we are moving towards a greener and better future.

  1. 3. Commercialization of Solar Panels

Solar energy is one of the cleanest and most holistic sources to practice during this global energy crisis. About 95% of the photovoltaic market is dominated by silicon. However, the high cost and more susceptibility to higher temperature led to degraded performance in solar cells

Researchers from the Centre for Hybrid and Organic Solar Energy Rome, funded by Graphene Flagship, have developed the world's first large-area graphene-enabled perovskite solar farm. The solar farm is successfully set up on the Greek island of Crete and can deliver a total peak power output exceeding 250 Watt (For comparison, the commercial solar panels in the market have a power output of about 200-300 Watt). In high-temperature conditions, graphene-enabled perovskite solar panels outperform conventional solar panels. The project aims to reduce the Levelized Cost of energy below 20€/MWh.

  1. Artificial Skin Functions Like Natural Skin

What if I told you that an artificial replacement of our natural skin is no longer a complex task? Yes, you heard that right; researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have developed a new prototype for artificial skin that reacts and senses pain in the same way natural skin does.

The artificial skin comprises graphene nanosheets and an elastic ecoflex layer that can be easily transferred onto various substrates. The graphene-enhanced artificial skin, only 32 microns thick, can be touched, pinched, and stretched like human skin. In addition, the skin is said to be elastic, conductive, and adaptable. The concept of biomimetic artificial skins has promising applications for robots and intelligent prosthetics.

  1. The Future of Wireless Communication

Imagine your digital avatar wandering through virtual malls, or what about holding a cross-country birthday celebration in a virtual space rather than over a video call?  From the standpoint of our current reality, this may sound like science fiction, but it may become a reality thanks to 6G communication.

However, the race to realize sixth-generation (6G) wireless communication (around 500 GHz) requires the development of a suitable service provider that can assist communications between wirelessly connected devices. A study by the Graphene Flagship has reported graphene detector that can transmit 100Gb/s data, which satisfies the requirements of the IEEE standardization target for 6G. In the not-too-distant future, there will a wonderland of communications if this technology becomes a reality.

  1. Self-Powered Cardiac Pacemaker

A cardiac pacemaker is no less than a miracle for people suffering from cardiovascular diseases. However, the typically battery-driven pacemakers have a limited lifetime, and additional surgery is still needed to replace the device, which poses a major risk for the patients. Now consider an idea of a pacemaker that overcomes the battery replacement challenge by recharging the battery from the heartbeats. Wouldn’t it be a significant step to overcome the trauma of going under the knife again and again to replace the battery?

To overcome this issue, scientists and doctors from the University of Kashan, Iran, developed biocompatible graphene-based self-powered piezoelectric nanogenerator that could successfully harvest 0.487 μJ from every heartbeat. This energy is conveniently larger than the pacing threshold energy for the human heart demonstrating a significant step in providing a sustainable power source for a self-powered cardiac pacemaker.

  1. 7. Multifunctional Wearable E-Textiles

Electronics textiles have risen to prominence as a new category of wearable electronics. However, due to cost, scalability, and poor performance, realizing such e-textiles has proven difficult. But what if it is possible to print a highly conductive and flexible electrode directly on fabric without sacrificing its performance?

With this thought, researchers from the University of the West of England have designed graphene-based, highly conductive flexible e-textiles. This e-textile acts as a sensor, monitoring vital signs such as heart rate, temperature, oxygen saturation level, human activities, and brain activity (EEG). The highlight of this study is even after 10 home laundry washing cycles; the printed conductive textiles maintain excellent wash stability. These findings could pave the way for multifunctional graphene e-textile garments in the coming years.

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By Akanksha Urade, Ph.D. Scholar at IIT Roorkee  and Graphene & 2D Materials Science Writer

 

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