Atomic Origami, anyone?

Atomic origami? Yes, this and countless other uses of Graphene are being touted around the world. Such is the enduring enthusiasm for what has been widely (boorishly) presented as the next generation wonder material…

For now Graphene’s post-natal stage of possibility seems as if it will never burn out. My own casual but regular monitoring of the global hullabaloo around Graphene suggests that the column inches, broadcast minutes and pixel count on this particular G-word are certainly racking up.

Graphene-a-go-go

Mainstream media, around the world, is twitching over Graphene and its potential uses. The coverage only seems to grow the more you look for news items on the radar. Ditto for certain academic journals, in fields such as physics and nanotechnology, which continue to publish relevant research papers — many of which still cite the original source material authored by Manchester-based Graphene godfathers, and Nobel Prize Winners, Prof. Novoselov and Prof. Geim.

There are genuinely too many stories to recount, and most of those have links to related, earlier stories. However, due to the post-natal stage of development for Graphene — and lack of significant products — nearly all stories are thinly veiled conjecture. Very occasionally, a shard of a story surfaces that has practical, scalable, signposts such as these…

“With carefully-planned folds and snips, researchers led by Cornell kirigami.CaptureUniversity’s Melina Blees, have created microscopic simple machines and structures: springs, pyramids, hinges and more.”

The BBC (linked here) also picked up on the same story.

Medical (and, sadly, military) claims are outlined in the next piece – one that also includes the, by now ‘classic’, factoid heavy intro that traces Graphene’s meteoric rise to global prominence. But it’s the ‘biosensor’ bit that holds interest…

“Tuned graphene molecular sensors open up new doors for biosensing which could result in improved environmental monitoring including pollutants and toxins in our bodies. Biosensors can also help in the process of drug delivery such as monitoring chemotherapy drugs or insulin levels with diabetics in the body.”  

More potential boons for Medicine are being noted in the nanotech sector: “Practical uses of such ultra-sensitive devices include the measurement of neurological currents in the brain or heart, and geophysical research.” Click that quote if you fancy a more academic, less newsy, read.

These are just a few links selected from innumerable examples.

Future gazing

If these and other potential uses start to reach fruition, it will rapidly usher in a Graphene age that could eclipse (not replace) Silicon, valley and all.

Of course, that time lies beyond an unknown horizon…

For the time being Graphene remains a ‘next generation’ wonder material.


P.S. Watch this space for an upcoming blogpost to summarise my experience and learnings from having recently attended the international ‘Graphene Week’ conference, held in Manchester (UK) 2015. Meanwhile, if you are ever stuck for an idea in mind to mull over, remember these two words: atomic origami.


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