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Graphene: Miracle Material with a Myriad of Uses

This post is part of our Weekend Notes series. Take a breather to get inspired by the power of steel and enjoy your weekend.

Graphene sounds like something out of a science fiction novel. In reality, it’s a miracle material – that when used in conjunction with existing materials like steel – could completely change the world around us.

Not to be confused with its smudgy cousin of pencil fame (graphite), graphene is the thinnest material ever discovered at one atom thick. Yes, one atom. It’s also incredibly durable due to its atomic structure, which is reminiscent of a wall of hexagonal honeycomb.

This structure, along with its hydrophobic qualities means that nothing but water can pass through it, making it the most efficient filter ever made and opening up pathways for cheap desalination facilities in developing countries.

Graphene also sports high electrical conductivity when an electrical field passes through it. This, along with its thinness and subsequent transparency, makes it the ideal material for constructing solar cells. If you really want to get into science fiction territory, the stuff bends too, opening the way for concepts like flexible cell phones, computers and televisions thinner than a sheet of paper.

Now, what does this mean for the steel industry? Well, graphene is also an extremely effective anti-corrosive agent. This, plus its nanoscale size, lack of toxicity and resistance to extreme temperatures makes it perfect rust-proofing for steel manufacturing. But, the real kicker is its potential in nanolayered composites, or when graphene is intertwined atomically with other metals.

In fact, that’s exactly what researchers at the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology did in a study last year. In their findings, they discovered that when combined with copper and nickel, the graphene helped to create a material that could withstand nearly 300 times the amount of stress of typical high carbon steel.

By utilizing graphene in steel production, there may be an opportunity to redefine what we ever thought possible and pave the way to the future of metal marriages.

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