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Graphene Composites Go Big

First fabrication of composites containing large sheets of graphene outperforms all others in conductivity and strength

1 min read
Graphene Composites Go Big
Photos: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Graphene is a wonder material — flexible, transparent, light, strong, and electrically and thermally conductive, qualities that have led to research worldwide into weaving these atom-thick layers of carbon into advanced devices. Now scientists have demonstrated what they say is the first large-scale fabrication of a graphene composite—a material that combines graphene with another substance to form something with new properties.

Until now, labs could only incorporate tiny flakes of graphene or graphene-like materials into composites. The mechanical and electrical capabilities of these composites were never as good as scientists would have liked because of weak links between the flakes, and the flakes often clumped together, leading to irregularities across the composites.

Now scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and their colleagues have fabricated composites made up of plastic and 5-centimeter-by-5-cm sheets of graphene. This advance builds on previous work of theirs synthesizing graphene via chemical vapor deposition, which involves growing sheets of the material directly from hydrocarbon vapor on metal catalysts such as copper.

Using large flat or rolled-up graphene sheets avoids the previous problem of flake clumping. All in all, these new composites outperform state-of-the-art graphene composites in terms of both mechanical properties and electrical conductivity while using 50 times less graphene, potentially helping make this material competitive in the market, the researchers say.

Future research could explore reducing the cost and demonstrating the scalability of these composites. The scientists detailed their findings online 28 April in the journal Applied Materials & Interfaces.

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The Transistor at 75

The past, present, and future of the modern world’s most important invention

2 min read
A photo of a birthday cake with 75 written on it.
Lisa Sheehan

Seventy-five years is a long time. It’s so long that most of us don’t remember a time before the transistor, and long enough for many engineers to have devoted entire careers to its use and development. In honor of this most important of technological achievements, this issue’s package of articles explores the transistor’s historical journey and potential future.

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