Graphene is a two-dimensional material made of a single layer of carbon atoms. It is what other nano-materials, like carbon nanotubes and other fullerenes are made of.
As mentioned, at this scale, materials behave differently. Graphene is extremely strong 100 times stronger than steel, it has been claimed yet it is also flexible. According to researchers at Columbia University, it can stretch by 20 per cent.
These properties put together could lead to the creation of durable, flexible displays for devices like smartphones and wearable technology, or even the sci-fi staple, rollable paper-like displays.
It is also being examined for potential uses in electronics and energy, as is another synthesised nanomaterial, silicon nanotubes.
Research into silicon nanotubes is at an even earlier stage than research into carbon nanotubes, and while silicene, the silicon equivalent of graphene, was observed in 2010, it hasn't been tested yet.
Nevertheless, it seems that silicon nanotubes could be used in technology that replaces lithium-ion batteries, and researchers are already examining how it could be used to reduce the size of electric car batteries.
The commercialisation of graphene and silicene, and their derivatives, is some time off yet. However, should they live up to their potential the enhanced durability and energy efficiency of electronic devices like smartphones could slash company expenditure on these devices to say nothing of new ones that could be developed off the back of research into these and other 2D materials.
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Jane McCallion is ITPro's deputy editor, specializing in cloud computing, cyber security, data centers and enterprise IT infrastructure. Before becoming Deputy Editor, she held the role of Features Editor, managing a pool of freelance and internal writers, while continuing to specialise in enterprise IT infrastructure, and business strategy.
Prior to joining ITPro, Jane was a freelance business journalist writing as both Jane McCallion and Jane Bordenave for titles such as European CEO, World Finance, and Business Excellence Magazine.