American Elephants


200 Times Stronger Than Steel, Graphene Stops Supersonic Bullets! by The Elephant's Child

Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics  in 2010 for isolating graphene in 2004— a wonder material: a substance 200 times stronger than steel, yet as thin as a single atom. By May of 2013, there had been more than 9,000 patent applications for graphene. From my 2013 post about graphene, some of those applying for patents were:

Companies like Apple, Saab, Lockheed Martin, Samsung, Nokia, BASF SE. The potential uses are as broad as filtering salt from seawater, flexible touch screens, anti-rust coatings, sports equipment like tennis racquets,  DNA sequencing devices, and distilling vodka. Everybody is trying to patent everything, so that you have the option of suing your competitors later and stopping them. Labs all over the world are hard at work, as is the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Dr. Geim, the Nobel laureate, has said that “Graphene opened up a material world we didn’t even know existed.” Scientists are looking at scores of other two-dimensional materials with unusual properties.

Graphene has remarkable properties that could revolutionize electronics, but new research has shown that the material is better than Kevlar at stopping bullets fired at supersonic speeds. Early research has shown that the material is able to absorb ten times as much energy as steel before failing.

“Graphene consists of single layers of carbon atoms, arranged in a sheet. Rice University researchers examined the behavior of graphene when subjected to simulated impacts from high-velocity bullets. A laser guidance system directed a silica bullet toward a small graphene target, containing several layers of the material. The laser evaporated a gold film, producing puffs of gas that accelerated the bullet toward its miniscule target at speeds up to 2,000 mph. Velocities of the projectile, taken before and after impact were used to calculate the amount  of energy absorbed by the target.”

Because of the scale of the experiment, they could not use a real gun barrel or gunpowder. The tiny graphene targets distributed the kinetic energy of the impacting projectile first into a cone and then into cracks that radiated from the point of impact.

“One popular analogy is that graphene is strong enough to withstand the weight of an elephant balancing on a pencil. However, this is the first major study to examine how the substance could be used in blocking bullets.”

So far, high quality graphene can only be produced in small quantities, so commercial production of bulletproof vests is a ways off. Until now, Kevlar is the most common material used to manufacture garments to protect from bullets. It was first developed in 1965 at DuPont. By the early 1970s it was being used as a  replacement for rubber in race car wheels. Today Kevlar is used in bicycle tires, sails for boats and drum heads — which is a pretty good demonstration of the widely varied uses that can come from a new material.

Graphene paint could mean the end of rust. Graphene oxide can be applied to metal, glass and brick, protecting the object from corrosion. Graphene  paint can even be applied to sand, creating a tough transparent coating holding grains together in any desired shape. A method for producing sheets of graphene economically may not be far off.

The rewards for turning the enormous  potential of graphene into real commercial products are so promising that the competition must be fierce. It sounds like there are some exciting stories waiting to be told. Stay tuned.



Atom-Thin, Stronger Than Steel, A New Super-Material Ignites a Patent Rush by The Elephant's Child

Every time you think that all discoveries have been made, all economic progress is over — comes a wonder material: a substance 200 times stronger than steel yet as thin as a single atom — which has sent “companies and universities racing to understand, patent and profit from the skinnier, more glamorous cousin of ordinary pencil lead.”

The material is graphene, and to demonstrate its potential, Andrea Ferrari recently picked up a sheet of clear plastic, flexed it and then tapped invisible keys, triggering tinkly musical notes.

The keyboard made at Dr. Ferrari’s University of Cambridge lab was printed with a circuit of graphene, which is so pliable that scientists predict it will fulfill dreams of flexible phones and electronic newspapers that can fold into a pocket.

It is the thinnest material known. But it is exceedingly strong, light and flexible. It is exceptional at conducting electricity and heat, and at absorbing and emitting light.

Andre Geim, a Russian-born scientist at the University of Manchester in Britain, and Konstantin Novoselov were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010 for isolating graphene. Dr. Geim wanted thin graphite to study its electrical properties. A doctoral student suggested using cellophane tape.”They used the tape to peel off layers of graphite until they got to a layer so thin it was transparent. Not only did it not fall apart, it was strong, flexible and possessed astonishing electrical properties.”

It is still far too expensive for mass markets, it doesn’t lend itself in computer-chip circuitry and scientists are trying to find better ways to turn it into usable form. There are still lots of hurdles, but Graphene is a material like steel or plastic or silicon that can change society.

And the race has begun, as of May, there have been more than 9,000 patent applications for graphene. Companies like Apple, Saab, Lockheed Martin, Samsung, Nokia, BASF SE. The potential uses are as broad as filtering salt from seawater, flexible touch screens, anti-rust coatings, sports equipment like tennis racquets,  DNA sequencing devices, and distilling vodka. Everybody is trying to patent everything, so that you have the option of suing your competitors later and stopping them. Labs all over the world are hard at work, as is the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Dr Geim, the Nobel laureate, has said that “Graphene opened up a material world we didn’t even know existed.” Scientists are looking at scores of other two-dimensional materials with unusual properties.

The Wall Street Journal piece is here, it may be behind a paywall. Watch for news stories about this new wonder material as scientists learn more about its possibilities. Think also of the Alaska Gold Rush and the Oklahoma Land Rush, now we have a Patent Rush — this may be the real Twenty-First Century promise.

geim_postcard  geim novoselov_postcard
………….André Geim………………………………Konstantin Novoselov

 




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