Smartphones are meant to bend

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You’ve no doubt heard of the issues surrounding the iPhone 6, but do you personally know of someone that it’s happened to? It may be corporate espionage but that’s another topic… For today, imagine a material 100 times stronger than steel – flexible, elastic, transparent, can conduct heat 10 times better than copper and produces electricity 100 times better than silicon. No, I’m not talking about something from a sci-fi movie; I’m talking about graphene and it’s been around for a whole 10 years!

Graphene is one of those exciting discoveries that has opened doors for so many new advances in technology with many tech giants such as Google, Samsung and Apple working hard to patent new products. There is even a graphene & 2D Materials Live conference in its fifth year, which covers the latest technology, applications and commercialisation progress for graphene.

What is graphene? Graphene is made from graphite. It is a one-atom thick layer of graphite that is so thin that it is considered two-dimensional and looks quite like a honeycomb. To put the size into perspective, it is 1/1,000,000th the thickness of a piece of paper.

What are the possibilities for Graphene? There are many possibilities for graphene and in the short term, being transparent, thin and flexible makes it perfect for touchscreens – so truly (versus possibly faulty) bendable smart phones may not be that far away. Just imagine pulling a phone out of your pocket, which fits into the small palm of your hand, which you can then flip, and stretch open to the size of a large tablet – no longer will you have to debate the pros and cons of what size phone to buy.

Graphene doesn’t just stop at bending smartphones. It plausibly has the capability to be used for removing toxic waste from our oceans, power semiconductors, creating computer chips that run 10,000 times faster, and lots of medical applications and sensors for monitoring cholesterol, glucose levels and more. Then it really turns sci-fi movies into reality with the capability to see in the dark with night vision contact lenses, generating electricity through house paint that absorbs sunlight and finally high-tech temporary tattoos that are wired to light up or act as a display.

Why are we still waiting for the bending phone? Originally, there were whispers that we would be in the market by this year. Now there is conjecture that the next Samsung 6 could be bendable, however the reality is that there are still challenges with graphene including somewhat unsurprisingly cost, and manufacturing good quality sheets on a large scale that we first need to be overcome.

It’s no longer a matter of will we have a Smartphone that bends but a question of when. Moreover, it’s not just about bendable software – graphene has the potential to drive innovative change across many aspects of our lives. So who will win the race to make the first Smartphone that bends and is graphene the material of the next industrial revolution?

 

This blog post was originally posted on the Potentia blog.

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