Undoubtedly, one of the nanomaterials that has attracted most attention in recent years is graphene. The properties of this material have led to a large number of articles being published, and companies selling large volumes of graphene in different presentations. But what really is this material? We have all used a pencil, and the tip of this object is mainly made of graphite. The atomic structure of graphite can be seen as several sheets of carbon on top of each other. If we were to take just one of these sheets, the material is known as graphene.
In the mid-19th century, experimentation with graphite began to study its atomic structure. However, it was not until 1948 that, with the help of a TEM microscope, the structure of graphite could be observed in more detail, until the monolayers that make it up could be observed. In 1962, the term graphene was coined, pointing to the possible existence of the material. It is important to mention that until that time, the existence of 2D materials was practically impossible. Moreover, it was not possible to observe materials in two dimensions with certainty. The most interesting fact in the history of graphene is when its isolation and characterization was achieved in 2004. Two scientists, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, succeeded in isolating it by means of a process they called micromechanical cleavage or Scotch tape technique, which consisted of placing graphite on an adhesive tape and continuously exfoliating it. With this work, both scientists received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010.
As previously mentioned, the characteristics of graphene make it a material with a large number of potential applications. Among the main properties, we can mention the following:
· High thermal conductivity.
· High electrical conductivity.
· High elasticity and flexibility.
· High strength: it is approximately 200 times stronger than steel.
These and other properties have made graphene one of the materials to which more resources are allocated for research and industry. Just to give us an idea, in 2014, China already had an annual production of graphene sheets exceeding 400 tons and 110,000 cubic meters in films. Some of the commercial applications of graphene are in anti-corrosion paints, thermal films, sensors, in some cell phone touch panels, etc. In addition, some of the potential applications of graphene point to the creation of nanodevices for biomedical applications, such as nanosensors in supercapacitors, nanowires, etc.
Undoubtedly, graphene is a material that is here to stay with us for a long time. The new applications that are being found, the increase in its research and production are proof of this. In addition, it has opened a field for the exploration of new 2-D materials such as borophene and silicene.