Mind & Matter


Graphene Finds its First Application

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Graphene-reinforced ceramics. Photo by ACS Nano.


Material investigations at the nanoscale have delivered many exotic substances in recent years; however, it will take time to develop commercial products from this research. The one-atom-thick graphene developed by Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, for example, has been heralded as a transformational material that can revolutionize electronics and renewable energy—but this future remains elusive.

According to The Economist, graphene may now be used to serve an unanticipated yet important purpose: reinforcing ceramics. University of Arizona scientist Erica Corral speculated that graphene could help ordinarily brittle ceramics resist cracking. By sintering graphene and silicon nitride powder together with an electrical current, Corral created a new composite twice as strong as unmodified silicon nitride. The new hybrid—analogous to a nanoscale-reinforced concrete—could be perfect for demanding applications in aerospace and automotive industries where durability and lightness are precious attributes.




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About the Blogger

Blaine Brownell

thumbnail image Minnesota-based architect and author Blaine Brownell, AIA, is a self-defined materials researcher and sustainable building adviser. His "Product of the Week" emails and three volumes of Transmaterial (2006, 2008, 2010) provide designers with a steady flow of inspiration—a 21st-century Grammar of Ornament. Blaine has practiced architecture in Japan and the U.S. and has been published in more than 40 design, business, and science publications. The recipient of a Fulbright fellowship for 2006–07, he researched contemporary Japanese material innovations at the Tokyo University of Science. He currently teaches architecture and co-directs the M.S. in Sustainable Design program at the University of Minnesota. His book Matter in the Floating World was published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.