Graphene Electronics, Unzipped

By unrolling tiny carbon tubes, you can produce superthin sheets with truly extraordinary electronic properties

10 min read
Graphene Electronics, Unzipped
Illustration: Bryan Christie Design
Animation: Bryan Christie Design
TO UNZIP A NANOTUBE, chemists apply a mixture of sulfuric acid and potassium permanganate. This reagent pries open some of the carbon-carbon bonds, opening a breach in the hexagonal cells. Continued chemical reactions proceed down the tube, opening a pathway along the chicken-wire structure, causing it to unfurl all the way down its length, producing a conductive ribbon that is extraordinarily long and thin.

Can any electronics material rival silicon—tunable, current-carrying, self-insulating, easy to fabricate, as common as sand on the beach? Even if another rival came forward, could it ever overcome silicon’s 50-year, trillion-dollar head start in development?

Yet we do need an adjunct to silicon, because so much of the potential market for electronics has yet to be opened. Electronics in paper, on walls, and in clothing are today mere novelties, simply because silicon can’t easily be painted on a surface, draped on a flexible platform, or used to cover large areas. What’s needed is something that can do all that and still be churned out cheaply and in bulk, processed easily, and slipped deftly into the guts of the next generations of electronics.

Keep reading... Show less

Stay ahead of the latest trends in technology. Become an IEEE member.

This article is for IEEE members only. Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

Acer Goes Big on Glasses-Free, 3D Monitors—Look Out, VR

Is this what’s needed to bring augmented reality to the home office?

4 min read
A standing tablet computer shows a blow out of a car that appears to be coming out of the display.

Content creators are a key target for Acer's glasses-free 3D.


Acer, the world’s fifth largest PC brand, wants to take the growing AR/VR market by the horns with its SpatialLabs glasses-free stereoscopic 3D displays.

First teased in 2021 in a variant of Acer’s ConceptD 7 laptop, the technology expands this summer in a pair of portable monitors, the SpatialLabs View and View Pro, and select Acer Predator gaming laptops. The launch is paired with AI-powered software for converting existing 2D content into stereoscopic 3D.

Keep Reading ↓ Show less

DARPA Wants a Better, Badder Caspian Sea Monster

Liberty Lifter X-plane will leverage ground effect

4 min read
A rendering of a grey seaplane with twin fuselages and backwards-facing propellers

Arguably, the primary job of any military organization is moving enormous amounts of stuff from one place to another as quickly and efficiently as possible. Some of that stuff is weaponry, but the vast majority are things that support that weaponry—fuel, spare parts, personnel, and so on. At the moment, the U.S. military has two options when it comes to transporting large amounts of payload. Option one is boats (a sealift), which are efficient, but also slow and require ports. Option two is planes (an airlift), which are faster by a couple of orders of magnitude, but also expensive and require runways.

To solve this, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants to combine traditional sealift and airlift with the Liberty Lifter program, which aims to “design, build, and flight test an affordable, innovative, and disruptive seaplane” that “enables efficient theater-range transport of large payloads at speeds far exceeding existing sea lift platforms.”

Keep Reading ↓ Show less
Distinguishing weak signals from noise is a challenging task in data acquisition. In this webinar, we will explain challenges and explore solutions. Register now!
Keep Reading ↓ Show less