Graphene is arguably the most remarkable material ever discovered, and after years of experiments and research, scientists have finally created what they’re calling the first commercially viable graphene product: a light bulb.
Manchester University (the same place where the material was discovered) and a company called Graphene Lighting have teamed up to produce the graphene bulb.
The bulb doesn’t use a regular filament like incandescent bulbs. It has a graphene-coated LED light shaped like a filament. Scientists estimate it could be 10% more efficient and will last longer than traditional LED bulbs because graphene is such a good conductor.
The graphene bulbs could be on store shelves in only a few months at a “competitive price,” according to a press release from Manchester.
As the world’s first two-dimensional material, graphene is 1 million times thinner than a strand of hair, but 200 times stronger than steel. It’s been dubbed the “wonder material.”
The two physicists who discovered it in 2004, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, each earned a Nobel Prize and knighthoods from the Queen of England. The discovery of graphene opened up a huge question, though: what on Earth are we going to use it for? And for a long time we didn’t have an answer.
In it’s simplest form, graphene is a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagon. It looks like a honeycomb under a microscope, and that structure is the secret to its incredible strength.
While it’s true that you can make your own graphene with a piece of scotch tape and some graphite pencil lead, graphene is complicated to produce on an industrial manufacturing scale. Getting one small piece of graphite down to just one atom thick is fairly easy, but generating huge sheets and sheets of graphene is complicated, and it’s still pretty expensive.Scientists are still working on ways to cut down manufacturing costs.
We don’t have specifics on the cost of the graphene bulb or how long it will burn, but if it’s successful, it could mark the start of a flood of future graphene products.
The National Graphene Institute opened at Manchester in March, and over 35 companies have already partnered with the institute to start developing graphene products. Faster charging batteries, flexible touchscreens, and lightweight aircraft are just a few of the incredible graphene-based tech that could be on the way.
The university is planning on opening the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre in 2017 to speed up the process of adapting the material for consumer products.
The possibilities really do seem endless so far. Scientists like to ask what graphene can’t do rather than what it can do. This light bulb is just the beginning.
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