GraphExeter: New graphene-based material could revolutionise electronics industry

Apr 27, 2012
University of Exeter researchers Dr Monica Craciun and Dr Saverio Russo.

(Phys.org) -- The most transparent, lightweight and flexible material ever for conducting electricity has been invented by a team from the University of Exeter.

Called GraphExeter, the material could revolutionise the creation of wearable electronic devices, such as clothing containing computers, phones and MP3 players.

GraphExeter could also be used for the creation of ‘smart’ mirrors or windows, with computerised interactive features. Since this material is also transparent over a wide light spectrum, it could enhance by more than 30% the efficiency of solar panels.

Adapted from graphene, GraphExeter is much more flexible than indium tin oxide (ITO), the main conductive material currently used in electronics. ITO is becoming increasingly expensive and is a finite resource, expected to run out in 2017.

These research findings are published in Advanced Materials, a leading journal in materials science.

At just one-atom-thick, graphene is the thinnest substance capable of conducting electricity. It is very flexible and is one of the strongest known . The race has been on for scientists and engineers to adapt graphene for flexible electronics. This has been a challenge because of its sheet resistance, which limits its conductivity. Until now, no-one has been able to produce a viable alternative to ITO.

To create GraphExeter, the Exeter team sandwiched molecules of ferric chloride between two layers of graphene. Ferric chloride enhances the electrical conductivity of graphene, without affecting the material’s transparency.

The material was produced by a team from the University of Exeter’s Centre for Science. The research team is now developing a spray-on version of GraphExeter, which could be applied straight onto fabrics, mirrors and windows.

Lead researcher, University of Exeter engineer Dr Monica Craciun said: “GraphExeter could revolutionise 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’ teeshirts. We are very excited about the potential of this material and look forward to seeing where it can take the in the future.”

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More information: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10… a.201200489/abstract

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wealthychef
4 / 5 (4) Apr 27, 2012
I keep wondering why this is revolutionary, other than that it belongs to a large family of amazing technologies that still don't work. Why would I want a phone built into my shirt? Will there be a phone in every shirt I wear? Will they all have the same number? How do I synchronize my mp3s between my shirts? This is just crazy.
Yevgen
not rated yet Apr 27, 2012
ITO is used in solar panels and LCD displays, so anything that
could replace it and would be cheap to make would be great.
One issue I see with above is that it utilizes doping graphene with FeCl3 which is highly soluble and unstable (hydrolyzes easily) salt, so I am not sure if it will comparable environmental (exposed to water) stability to ITO which is a glass so is extremely stable.
Terriva
1 / 5 (1) Apr 27, 2012
The bonding of FeCl3 to graphite may cause, this potential of electron acceptor will decrease and it will become less prone to hydrolysis. In analogy with it, the iodine absorbed into graphite is way less reactive, than the iodine in its free state. But you're right, I don't believe in stability of monomolecular films too much - despite the robustness of graphite lattice. The conductivity of such film would depend on the minute amount of FeCl3, which may be quite difficult to protect against negative influence of environment for years, required by common applications of solar cells. The reliable ITO replacement is still matter of distant future.
Terriva
1 / 5 (1) Apr 27, 2012
Another popular way of graphene doping consist from application of nitrous oxide or nitric acid, which will cause the bonding of nitrate groups. These groups are strong electron acceptors like the iron ions and they're prone to the hydrolysis with environmental humidity. The problem of nitrate doping is, it tends to oxidize the graphene films gradually. The bonding of cyano-groups and/or another acceptor groups may be better choice here.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (1) Apr 27, 2012
I keep wondering why this is revolutionary, other than that it belongs to a large family of amazing technologies that still don't work. Why would I want a phone built into my shirt? Will there be a phone in every shirt I wear? Will they all have the same number? How do I synchronize my mp3s between my shirts? This is just crazy.
Yeah they keep mentioning this as some advantage. What if you need or want to wear something else? How do you wash it? What if you get a tear in it? Perhaps this is ok for the military but who else?
Terriva
3 / 5 (2) Apr 27, 2012
How do I synchronize my mp3s between my shirts? This is just crazy.
It's easy - inside of washing machine: after common washing all shirts will be perfectly clean - and synchronized. You just shouldn't wash your dirty video loaded shirt together with the underwear of your grandma. The bright human future is not for everyone....
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (2) Apr 27, 2012
Why would I want a phone built into my shirt?

- Because maybe you have a heart condition? And the sensors in the shirt monitor it and the phone in your shirt can call help when needed?
- Or a pheromone detector that will warn you before you have a seizure
- Or you want to have a shirt that displays crazy stuff at parties
- Or you want a shirt (or pants) that can double as a full sized screen and keyboard instead of lugging around a tiny screen on a thing the size and comfort of a brick?
- Or you don't want to print electronics on a shirt but on your wallpaper...Instant wall-to-wall cinema or mood lighting walls
- Or coat glasses with it for augmented reality displays
- Or ...

Just saying: creative people will come up with creative uses for stuff when it becomes available. Don't knock it until you are absolutely sure it's useless.
Shabs42
not rated yet Apr 27, 2012
- Or ...


Clothing that charges the batteries of the phone in your pocket.
Or lights built into clothing for safety reasons.
Or sensors for monitoring athletic performances.
Or extra processing power that a phone or tablet you're holding can take advantage of.
Or selling advertising space on your body, car, or house.

Also raves.
Jason_Cook
not rated yet Apr 28, 2012
This is just crazy.

Same thing I think people said when we started to get computers that fit in our houses. Not to mention the part about the solar panels 30% efficiency increase. Thats pretty damn cool. Wont that make them smaller and more affordable too?
LordKinyambiss
4 / 5 (1) Apr 28, 2012
In a decade or so, graphene should certainly fuel what should be ubiquitous information processing in our daily lives. One wonders if too much information (from the subjective capacity of the average person) will prompt better AI and so the machine race is born in the 21st C?
Terriva
2 / 5 (2) Apr 28, 2012
In a decade or so, graphene should certainly fuel what should be ubiquitous information processing in our daily lives.
I'm very skeptical about it, because the success of some technology in scientific research is driven with employment (for mainstream physicists the finding is more interesting, the more additional grants and jobs it can create) - whereas the technological praxis is economy driven. And now, nearly seven years after graphene finding we still have no viable practical application of it. Just try to compare it with Nobel prize for giant magnetorezistance findings, which got its applications during two years after Nobel Prize. IMO layman publics is getting fooled with mainstream physics lobby, who just seeks for grants, jobs and salaries and doesn't care about practical applicability of its findings too much. The properties of graphene aren't so advantageous pro practical perspective, if you try to think about it.
Terriva
1 / 5 (1) Apr 28, 2012
One problem with graphene is, it too conductive for electronic circuits. The difference between open and closed state of graphene circuits is just 70 - 150 milivolts. It's too low for practical purposes. One of reasons, why silicon replaced the germanium was just the low voltage difference between closed and open state of transistors and this trend continues in applications of silicon carbide and galliumarsenide circuits, because these materials provide wider gap and better stability. The application of graphene would go against this trend.
The second problem with graphene is, it works in monomolecular layer only, which is too thin and unstable for practical application. It wears off easily, it degrades easily and oxidizes itsef. To prepare monomolecular layer across larger areas is not easy at all, as the graphene tends to form multilayers, the conductivity of whose is way lower and such multilayers form the nonconductive patches, which degrade the quality of displays and solar panels