What's Going On With Graphene?

By Pierre Dumont , May 20, 2013 08:07 PM EDT

Graphene has been touted as the material of the future, but is this really the case? Only time will tell, but if this year's developments are any indication, we're inclined to throw our hats in the graphene ring. Check out some of the best graphene developments so far this year.

1. Graphene Used To Make Earphone Of The Future

Speakers include diaphragms that often require "dampening engineering," which is an expensive process. To get around this, researchers have tried to make the diaphragm thin and light, so that air acts as a dampener. But because of the weak tendency of thin materials, this process is often frustrated. Not so with graphene, which was used by University of California-Berkeley researchers to create graphene headphones. "The graphene speaker, with almost no specialized acoustic design, performs comparably to a high quality commercial headset," researchers Qin Zhou and Alex Zetti said.

2. Graphene Aerogel Is The Lightest Material On Earth

Perhaps one of graphene's greatest uses may be its standing as part of the lightest material on Earth. That's what Chinese researchers from Zhejiang University have developed with graphene aerogel. Aerogels are gels that are comprised of gas instead of liquid. Graphene aerogel is less dense than helium and only twice as dense as hydrogen. The new material has a number of potential uses, including a graphene aerogel blimp, but perhaps the most useful would be a cleanup method for oil spills.

3. Graphene Paint May Power Future Homes

Forget solar panels, how about solar paint? Graphene may lead the way with researchers investigating the ways in which graphene can be used to draw solar energy. The transparency and reflectivity of windows and fixtures could also be altered using the material. "We are sure that as we research more into the area of 2D atomic crystals we will be able to identify more of such complimentary materials and create more complex heterostructures with multiple functionalities," Director of the Graphene Research Centre at the National University of Singapore, Professor Antonio Castro Neto said.

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