Graphene, the ridiculously thin, strong, electrically conductive and flexible miracle material, might be coming to your touchscreens. And when it does, "you could theoretically roll up your iPhone and stick it behind your ear like a pencil".
Graphene has had scientists in a tizzy for years but the biggest problem was the process of making it. Scientists would literally have to shave off atom-thin flakes and chemically dissolve chunks of graphite in order to create the miracle material. Imagine trying to make something with pencil shavings, yeah, not so easy. At most, scientist could only deliver "flecks of graphene".
But thanks to recent breakthroughs, researchers at Samsung and Sungkyunkwan University in Korea have produced a continuous layer of pure graphene the size of a television using a roll-to-roll process to spool graphene on top of a polyester sheet:
A sheet of copper foil is wrapped around a cylinder and placed in a specially designed furnace. Carbon atoms carried on a heated stream of hydrogen and methane meet the copper sheet and settle on it in a single uniform layer. The copper foil exits the furnace pressed between hot rollers, and the graphene is transferred onto a polyester base. Silver electrodes are then printed onto the sheet.
Being able to build graphene at such size would make it much more appealing for mass production and have graphene eventually trickle into your touchscreens and flat panel displays.
A flexible touchscreen using graphene to make the screen's transparent electrodes has already been developed and already outclasses the current material, indium tin oxide. Where indium tin oxide is expensive and brittle, graphene is cheaper, stronger, faster and flexible. Maybe when this miracle material comes to fruition, we'll finally accept calling devices magical. [Technology Review]