I came across this article by the BBC Science Editor David Shukman, and thought it made for an interesting read.
Every single chemist in the world has heard of graphene – the material made up of a single sheet of graphite with astounding and unique properties. Millions of pounds of funding is being pumped into graphene research, and there are already thousands of patents on graphene, more than 400 being held by Samsung.
But is graphene really the wonder material everyone seems to think it is?
This article considers the words of a senior British professor, who says that graphene is a ‘waste of money’, but the ‘technology is too limited’.
Certainly, there is a price to pay for graphene’s amazing properties, such as very high conductance, strength and flexibility. For many applications, graphene has to be very pure, which can limit its industrial viability. However, supporters of graphene argue that when inventions are designed with graphene in mind, there is still real potential for it to be a success. This makes supporting graphene a bit of a financial gamble – if it can be incorporated into upcoming technology, it could change everything, but if it turns out there are too many technical issues with the material, it could just as easily fall flat.
From a purely fundamental point of view, graphene is a wonder material. Its current potential in a wide variety of areas of chemistry, materials science and even medicine make it still an exciting and invigorating research subject, but whether it is worth all of the money currently being funneled into it remains to be seen.