Graphene, often touted as the “wonder material” of the 21st century, has been the subject of intense research and development over the past decade. This single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a two-dimensional honeycomb lattice has properties that seem almost magical: it’s stronger than steel, more conductive than copper, and flexible like rubber. But as with any revolutionary material, it’s not without its controversies and challenges.
The use and development of graphene promise to revolutionize numerous industries, from electronics to energy, medicine to materials science. Yet, the path to its widespread adoption is fraught with hurdles, both technical and ethical. As we stand on the brink of a potential graphene revolution, it’s crucial to weigh the pros and cons of this extraordinary material.
Pros of Using and Developing Graphene
- High Water Permeability and Stability: Graphene-based materials like nanoporous single-layer graphene and multilayer graphene oxide membranes have high water permeability, high selectivity, high salt rejection, reduced fouling, and high chemical and physical stability. Source
- Enhanced Composite Tooling: Graphene-enhanced composite tooling offers longer-lasting tooling and better heat distribution. Source
- High Thermal and Electrical Conductivity: Graphene has high thermal and electrical conductivity, making it a promising choice for efficient heat and electricity transfer. It’s also flexible, elastic, and can be used to generate electricity from sunlight. Source
- Highest Carrier Mobility: Graphene has the highest carrier mobility of all known materials at room temperature, making it an ideal candidate for radiofrequency transistors. Source
- Versatile Applications: Graphene has promise for additional applications such as anti-corrosion coatings and paints, efficient and precise sensors, faster and efficient electronics, flexible displays, efficient solar panels, faster DNA sequencing, drug delivery, and more. Source
- Thinnest and Strongest Material: Graphene is the thinnest material known and also the strongest. It is both pliable and transparent. It is a superb conductor of both heat and electricity. Source
- Used in Health Applications: Graphene is used in wearable sensors and implantable devices. The oxidized form, graphene oxide, is used for cancer treatment, drug delivery, vaccine development, and ultra-low concentration diagnostics. Source
- Potential in Various Industries: Graphene could be useful in vehicle designs, waterproofing and weatherproofing houses, advancements in food packaging, and creating the next-generation of electronics, such as faster transistors and bendable phones. Source
- Ultralight and Immensely Tough: Graphene is ultralight, two hundred times stronger compared to steel, incredibly flexible, and completely transparent which can transmit more than 90% of the light. Source
- Improves Prosthetics and Dental Implants: Graphene helps prosthetics become more natural in movement and secure in grip. It also offers a better alternative to titanium-based dental implants. Source
Cons of Using and Developing Graphene
- Potential Health Risks: Graphene oxide can unintentionally enter the body through inhalation, dermal contact, and ingestion as it can disperse in many solvents. Source
- Expensive Production: The production of graphene, especially through methods like Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD), can generate toxic gaseous by-products and the equipment is expensive. The graphene transfer process is also laborious and has a high risk of introducing contamination. Source
- High Cost of Graphene: Traditional conductive carbon/graphite is very cheap, while graphene is expensive, with the price of a gram reaching thousands of dollars. This cost is not affordable for ordinary enterprises. Source
- Susceptibility to Oxidative Environments: One of the major disadvantages of graphene as a catalyst is its susceptibility to oxidative environments. Source
- Lack of Band Gap: Being a great conductor of electricity, graphene doesn’t have a band gap, meaning it can’t be switched off. Scientists are working on rectifying this. Source
- Challenges in Isolation: Graphene was first isolated in 2004, but both methods of isolation have disadvantages, and producers are yet to crack the code for efficient and cost-effective isolation. Source
- Limited Practical Applications: Despite its many theoretical advantages, the practical applications of graphene are still limited due to various challenges in its production and manipulation. Source
- Environmental Impact: The production and disposal of graphene could have potential environmental impacts that are not yet fully understood. Source
- Complexity in Studying Graphene: The complex nature of graphene makes it difficult to study and understand fully, which can slow down its development and application. Source
- Scalability Issues: While graphene has many promising properties, there are significant challenges in producing it at a large scale for commercial applications. Source
The use and development of graphene, a material with extraordinary properties, is a topic of great interest and debate in the scientific community. Its potential applications are vast, spanning from electronics to medicine, energy to materials science. However, the road to its widespread adoption is not without its challenges. The high cost of production, potential health risks, and environmental impacts are among the significant hurdles that need to be overcome.
Despite these challenges, the potential benefits of graphene are too significant to ignore. As research continues and solutions to these problems are found, the use and development of graphene could usher in a new era of technological advancements. The “wonder material” of the 21st century may indeed live up to its name, but it will require careful and responsible management to ensure its benefits are realized while minimizing its drawbacks.