Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Magi Of The Material

Every day, exciting new advances in material science are taking place, in the modern age this innovation is mostly taking place on the nano scale, around the size of cells down to individual atoms.  Working with materials on this level can have incredible benefits and opens up huge new areas of possibility.

One of the more well known nano materials is the carbon nano tube, a long thin tube of carbon atoms that is incredibly strong.  Weaving carbon fibers together can create super strong material useful in all kinds of industrial applications, nano tubes have application in everything from electronics to medicine, but they are themselves constructs of a still more wondrous material:  Graphene

Graphene is simply a flat hexagonal sheet of carbon atoms one molecule thick.  Multiple layers of graphene are known as graphite and are familiar to most people as the substance in most pencils, the bonds between layers of graphene in a chunk of graphite are far less stable than those within the graphene sheets, so the layers tend to peel off, this is what happens when you write with a pencil.

But what happens if we isolate down a single layer of graphene?  Surprisingly, graphene has many fantastic abilities and applications, not the least of which is its incredible strength.  For being only a single atom thick, graphene is almost literally indestructible, an elephant could stand on a single layer and not break through.  The possible applications based on this alone are incredible, but graphene is also super conductive, meaning that it could lead to revolutionary advances in micro electronics.

So whats happening with graphene today?  Probably the latest piece of graphene news is the successful transmission of wireless data via graphene micro electronics.  This heralds a great breakthrough in efficiency and shows the advancement of graphene creation methods over even the last few years.  Read more about this development here:


Another area of advancement is in graphene manufacturing, where several different companies have achieved high levels of success in cheaply mass manufacturing graphene, mostly in Korea and China.  In the next few years we could see a great increase in the worlds graphene production and the phasing in of its uses in every day life, once this happens it can become accessible to the decentralized technology community and the real innovation and application can start, this is still a few years off but is on the horizon.  Read more about recent innovations in graphene manufacturing here:


One of the best things about graphene on the conceptual level is that it only uses the element carbon, this is a nano technologists dream come true.  Imagine possessing a molecular printer that could take carbon from the dirt and print it into pure graphene, indestructible, electrically conductive, ect.  Being able to make these things from pure raw material is the ultimate goal, but even now the simplicity of graphene's geometry makes it easy to work with using modern silicone wafer techniques for creating semiconductors.

So what could you personally do with nano materials?  Well, the list is endless, but i will name a few ideas just to get the brain juices flowing:  Unbreakable rope,long lasting batteries, super light camping gear, electronics woven into things like clothing, inflatable graphene houses, feather light unbreakable armor, super light aircraft, ect ect ect on and on.  If you are interested in any of these ideas, i suggest you check out this amazing video by a self proclaimed "Global Resilience Guru" Vinay Gupta, creator of the hex yurt, this video presents one of the best mixes of modern cyber geek culture, futurology, egalitarianism and just plain brilliance.  Its worth watching the whole thing:


And if you get through that one:


So much win.  Any way, super nano materials, tiny efficient computers, wi fi nomads and solar charging clothing, great change is sneaking up on the horizon, things that can change society as much or more as fifty years of the computer age.  So gear up and geek out, see you in the future.

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