University of Exeter researchers Saverio Russo and Monica Craciun. (Courtesy: University of Exeter)
By Tushna Commissariat
Here at Physics World, the word graphene gets used a lot. You might find that simply saying the word “graphene” elicits a groan from most of the editorial team. But this is usually followed quite swiftly by a fair amount of interest, because it’s undeniable that graphene is some kind of “wonder material” with a seemingly endless list of bizarre properties and applications. Along with the plethora of potential applications for graphene comes an interesting array of names for graphene-based materials. When our news editor Michael Banks heard that scientists in Spain had created an acoustic analogue for graphene, he dubbed it “graphone” – a name that has a certain resonance to it!
But it seems that researchers at the UK’s University of Exeter really ran out of suitable graphene-related names recently as they have decided to call their new graphene-based material “GraphExeter”. According to the researchers, GraphExeter is the most transparent, lightweight and flexible version of graphene that is also an excellent at conducting electricity, and so “could revolutionize the creation of wearable electronic devices, such as clothing containing computers, phones and MP3 players”.
The researchers created GraphExeter by sandwiching molecules of ferric chloride between two layers of graphene. Ferric chloride enhances the electrical conductivity of graphene without affecting the material’s transparency. The researchers say it is also much more flexible than indium tin oxide (ITO), the main conductive material currently used in electronics. As ITO is used so extensively, it is expensive and resources are expected to run out by 2017. The research is published in the journal Advanced Materials here.
Lead researcher Monica Craciun says “GraphExeter could revolutionize the electronics industry. It outperforms any other carbon-based transparent conductor used in electronics and could be used for a range of applications, from solar panels to ‘smart’ T-shirts. We are very excited about the potential of this material and look forward to seeing where it can take the electronics industry in the future.”
According to a University of Exeter press release, the researchers are “now developing a spray-on version of GraphExeter, which could be applied straight onto fabrics, mirrors and windows”. While the applications of GraphExeter may be varied and interesting, the researchers might have to come up with a slightly more user-friendly name for their new material if they intend to use it in a T-shirt venture!