Thursday, 4 July 2013

The European Commission is about to spend €2 billion on graphene and human brain research. But the claimed objectives may well be more integrated – and less benign – than they seem

I’d imagine most of you have never heard of graphene. Graphene is carbon-rich and only one atom thick. It thus qualifies as a near as damnit two-dimensional substance….the first example of such a thing in the real world. Despite being the thinnest material known to exist, it is also the strongest material ever tested— 2-300 times stronger than steel. A lot of atomic and sub-atomic stuff has this ability to defy the size v importance obsession: graphene rocked the world of chemistry in 2004 when UMIST scientists discovered that it had remarkable properties that allow it to conduct electricity better than any other common substance.
As you might expect, most members of our beads-fixated species are interested in how graphene can be used strategically and commercially. China controls 70% of the known supplies of it, and it’s been named a “supply critical mineral” and a “strategic mineral” by the United States and the European Union. It makes semiconductors 100 times faster, and would make every aeroplane 70% lighter. Phones and computer displays made with it can bend and fold. And it has the potential to make people and things completely invisible. Yes, that’s right: invisible.
But some possibilities are genuinely profound. As graphene is almost all carbon – the chemical basis for all known life – it should be an ecologically friendly, sustainable solution for an almost limitless number of applications. Importantly, it renders solar energy 100 times more efficient, and thus might well be the missing link for which some of us have been hoping as an end to dependence on fossil fuels….and thus interminable Middle Eastern violence.

full article here

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