GRAPHENE vs Microchips – Your Days are Numbered

by Glynn Jung 

Grapene carbon monolayer.

Grapene carbon monolayer. The discovery of graphene results in a Nobel prize for Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov in 20

Now here’s an admission: when I joined IBM’s Research Labs back in the autumn of 1969 we were designing the next generation of computers on valve computers the size of a Town Hall. Some of the machines I worked on had 10 printers, each the size of a Ford Ka. At an astonishing pace we exploited each latest machine to design the next technology, ever smaller ever faster and typically designed to do things that people didn’t know they wanted to do.

Smaller, lighter, faster … at the heart of this was chip technology, firstly silicon chips, then by 2005 carbon nanotube technology (silicon proving too expensive and generating dangerous levels of heat.

We regularly see startling results of chip technology on News programmes, not just computers, cameras, iPhones and iPads, car computers, airplane systems etc., etc…..  implants to help people operate prosthetic limbs, to help the blind see (currently blurry) images, to operate in hospitals with micro-surgery and non-invasive techniques.

So it’s pretty startling to find that in 10 years’ time the use of chips may start to decline, along with the technology currently used in touch-screen devices – INDIUM.

Here’s the story … Indium stocks will run out within 10 years and there’s manufacturing limits for chip technology. Imagine if you can, a material, 2 molecules thick, which can conduct thermal energy, contain the same logic and electronic functions as chips, is very strong, lets light through it (so can be used in windows, spectacles – whatever. Picture if you can this material being so versatile it can be embedded into both the finest and the most rugged of clothing.

This stuff (that’s the technical word) exists and it is called GRAPHENE.

In a special research facility, with the catchy name of “Centre for Graphene Science”, the combined knowledge of the Universities of Exeter and Bath have stirred up the scientific community with the release of their technology “GraphExeter”. Maybe they could use some help with branding?

Here’s what people have been saying:

http://www.globalscientia.com/article/united-kingdom/nano-materials-technology/new-graphene-based-material-could-revolutionize

http://www.gizmag.com/graphexeter-ito-alternative/22344/

http://www.ecouterre.com/graphene-based-conductive-material-could-revolutionize-wearable-tech/

http://www.computescotland.com/silicene-and-graphexeter-5243.php

Now, despite all the hyperbole about interactive books, mobile learning, ePub, Augmented Reality, Virtual worlds the way people learn hasn’t changed a great deal over the past 50 years.

Some of the techniques used in digital classrooms – High Definition IWBs with student polling, with visualisers and 3D modelling (e.g.  Virtalis and AutoDesk) – are gradually being looked at by corporate trainers (adopted is too strong a statement) but there are infrastructure issues, portability and cost concerns. If we can imagine a fully interactive version of an IWB that you could roll up or fold, which could be made from multi-layer Graphene (essentially reconstructed graphite …. the stuff in pencils) it could change the scene of learning. Having just seen how Google hope to use Augmented Reality in their “Project Glass”, I wonder about the ability to provide Graphene- coated glasses (or clip-on lenses) for training or enhanced safety in dangerous environments… using Augmented Reality and QR codes.

What about diagnostic manuals and study guides made of paper with Graphene sheets, so you could have interactive tutorials, links to resources like the ones you’ll find in the Khan Academy, tutor hotlines etc…..

So I’ll leave you with one final news item:

http://www.psfk.com/2012/05/wearable-electronics.html