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The Dawn of the Graphene Age

Imagine you had access to a transparent, single-atom-thick material with the relative strength of diamond, the highest conductivity of any material we’ve ever discovered, application as a porous or completely impermeable membrane, and more potential applications than we’ve ever been able to discover in the past. Imagine, further, that the material it’s made from is relatively cheap and abundant. That’s graphene—a cohesive, single-atom-thick web of graphite. And in the ten years since it was discovered, it has shown the potential to change everything.

The BBC’s Jonathan Hare outlines graphene—how it’s made, what it does, and why it’s so important that researchers working on the material have already earned one Nobel Prize—here:

The hard part is making the stuff (and keeping it clean). But a new study, published over the weekend in Nature Materials, just might change all of that. The authors have figured out how to create what they call “large quantities of defect free few-layer graphene by shear exfoliation”—or, in layman’s terms, they’ve figured out how to make chunks of the stuff by essentially stabilizing, and then shredding, graphite in a blender.

This new shear exfoliation technique doesn’t solve all of the puzzles associated with graphene mass production on its own, but it could certainly simplify the process—and allow materials engineers to find more ways to create this wonder material in bulk.

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Tom Head is an author or coauthor of 29 nonfiction books, columnist, scriptwriter, research paralegal, occasional hellraiser, and proud Jackson native. His book Possessions and Exorcisms (Fact or Fiction?) covers the recent demand for exorcists over the past 30 years and demonic possession.
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