Originally deriving from graphite – the lead in your pencil, Graphene is the world’s first 2D material.

There’s a lot of buzz building around this material in recent years, and there’s a good reason for that. It’s been dubbed a ‘wonder material’ and experts in many industries are getting excited about it. So, what is graphene? And moreover, what impact will it have on the UK economy? Below we go into detail about what you can expect from graphene and why it could be such a game changer for production companies like Hian Technologies.

Graphene – The Discovery

Graphene has been an intense topic of conversation for many years. In the past there have been various experiments to extract the material from graphite, but to no avail.

This was until 2004, when two researchers from The University of Manchester made a breakthrough. Using experimental techniques, Professor Andre Geim and Professor Kostya Novoselov, isolated the material. They won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2010 for their ground-breaking work.

Flexible, Lightweight and Conductive

Graphene is over 200 times stronger than steel and a million times thinner than a strand of hair. It’s made up from a hexagonal lattice of carbon atoms and is only a single atom deep.

It’s recognised as being highly flexible, lightweight and conductive. It can be used as an effective barrier, with even helium unable to pass through it.

As a result of its exceptional properties, graphene is taking many forms. It can be used as a single layer or stacked. It can also be mixed with other materials and liquids. It’s been called ‘the material of the future’ and it’s not difficult to see why. The potential opportunities Graphene brings are seemingly never ending.

The Economic Impact of Graphene

The global market for graphene-based products is expected to be worth around £500 million by the year 2020.

What is Graphene Used for Today?

Graphene is currently being used in numerous industries and products. From wearable tech to tennis rackets and even lightbulbs. It’s being developed for uses in automobiles, aircraft, buildings and energy storage. Expect the material to boost efficiency and revolutionise many industries. We can also expect to see entire markets born from the material’s production and uses.

The Potential for Graphene

We’re already seeing development in numerous sectors which indicate the potential for the material. An example of this would be Graphene membranes, which are capable of transforming water purification technologies in developing countries.

The thermal and electrical conductive properties will offer Graphene a wider industrial appeal. From electronics to healthcare, sports and defence – the material’s benefits will be seen across the world in many shapes and sizes.

The UK is a leading figure in developing the material for industry and will continue to benefit from its various innovations.

Graphene and 3D Printing

Graphene-enhanced materials massively improve existing materials used in 3D printing, like plastics. The graphene is added to the polymers, which makes the materials mechanically stronger and improves their thermal and electoral conductivity. By mixing heat and pressure, researchers can condense small bits of graphene to produce a strong and sturdy structure, ideal for 3D printing.

Find out more about graphene and its potential impact on the Innovate UK blog.