It won its creators the Nobel Prize and went on to receive a €1bn (£880m) research grant from the EU in 2013.
It was touted as the ‘miracle material’ with ‘limitless potential’ set to turn the entire technology sector upside down.
Put simply, graphene is a material stronger than diamond made up of single-atom-thick carbon sheets which are light, flexible and more conductive than silicon.
Some news stories at the time expected change to be quick, silicon to be swapped out in favour of graphene and the future of super-strong, flexible screens and infinite connectivity to be ushered in.
‘The first silicon devices were in the 1940s,’ nanotechnology expert Professor James Tour, of Rice University, tells Metro.co.uk.
‘The silicon industry didn’t kick off until 1960. So there was around a 15-year gap from the time of the first transistor to the dawn of the silicon era.
Some of the most interesting developments to reach the marketplace have come in medicine and the military:
That’s all very exciting but it’s not quite the moment that Thomas Edison turned on the original light bulb or John Logie Baird switched on the TV… yet.
It will likely need a big overnight change to bring it to mainstream attention or the precise moment when (if?) the computer becomes 1,000 times quicker.
‘There are almost infinite applications for graphene,’ James Baker, CEO of graphene at the University Of Manchester, tells Metro.co.uk.
‘[They go] from aerospace to automotive to electronics to biomedical to novel membrane technologies.
‘Products are starting to exist and I believe we are approaching a “tipping point” of new products and applications in everyday life.’
Top quality graphene currently costs $10,000-a-tonne (£7,900) because it has a complex production process. It used to need expensive materials like platinum, nickel or titanium carbide but now uses copper foil but is still a difficult thing to get right (less high quality graphene can already be bought cheaply).
But, Metro.co.uk has been told, a big change in production method is coming in the next 18 months that will bring the price down very quickly. Nobody would speak about it on the record when asked.
In simple terms, graphene is a two-dimensional atomic crystal made up of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice. Due to its unique combination of superior properties, graphene is a credible starting point for new disruptive technologies across a wide range of fields.
Graphene is the thinnest compound known to man at one atom thick (a million times thinner than a human hair), the strongest compound discovered (between 100-300 times stronger than steel), the lightest material known (with one square meter weighing approximately 0,77 milligrams),and extremely flexible.
It is also impermeable to molecules, and is highly electrically and thermally conductive – graphene enables electrons to flow much faster than silicon. It is also a transparent conductor, combining electrical and optical functionalities in an exceptional way.
‘Flexible screens are already happening but what can happen with graphene is much grander than that,’ Professor Tour says.
‘The miracle of graphene is that it’s so simple but it’s made out of a structure that is one of the strongest bonds in the universe.’
‘Graphene looks much closer to the next carbon nanotube [which has limited uses] than the next silicon,’ Lux Research has said.
Graphene’s severe under-performance to live up to the massive hype [is] pronounced. [There are] all these startups with unproven technical value and business execution.’
It’s already being used as a marketing tactic, with tennis star Novak Djokovic very happy with his graphene-optimised racket.
And Lux’s point is that all of graphene’s ‘potential’ and ‘limitless’ uses are still potential and theory.
The industry is progressing quickly but literally billions of pounds are being spent on making its adoption and progression as quick as possible.
‘A hypothetical 1-metre-square hammock of perfect graphene could support a 4-kilogram cat,’ the Nobel prize committee says.
‘The hammock would weigh 0.77 milligrams — less than the weight of a cat’s whisker — and would be virtually invisible.’
It will take that one light-bulb moment before the mainstream really sees graphene as anything like the cat’s whiskers.
From OBEs to CEOs, professors to futurologists, economists to social theorists, politicians to multi-award winning academics, we think we've got the future covered, away from the doom-mongering or easy Minority Report references.
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