Graphene Finds its First Application
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.