Graphene: a material consisting of a sheet of carbon atoms one atom thick. Graphene was first identified only a few years ago, and has since been proferred for all sorts of uses, including ultracapacitors, spintronics, and now as a light source:
Microchips is just one of the material’s potential applications. Because of its single-atom thickness, pure graphene is transparent, and can be used to make transparent electrodes for light-based applications such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) or improved solar cells.
It is also apparently very strong:
The mobility of electrons in graphene — a measure of how easily electrons can flow within it — is by far the highest of any known material. So is its strength, which is, pound for pound, 200 times that of steel.
The problem is to find a way to mass-manufacture it:
The trick that enabled the first demonstrations of the existence of graphene as a real separate material came when researchers at the University of Manchester applied sticky tape to a block of graphite and then carefully peeled off tiny fragments of graphene and placed them on the smooth surface of another material.
“They don’t care if they go to a lot of effort to make five tiny pieces, they can study those for years.” But when it comes to possible commercial applications, it’s essential to find ways of producing the material in greater quantities.