Not quite ready for the Diamond Age

Scanning electron micrograph of graphene. [Credit: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory]
In his science fiction novel The Diamond Age, Neal Stephenson describes a world filled with electronic paper, tiny flexible computers, and transparent displays. Graphene—a crystal comprised of a single layer of carbon atoms—is perhaps the most promising material to make that world real (though hopefully without the universal surveillance state and environmental collapse that are also part of the book). However, promises aren’t the same thing as practical technology, so it behooves us to take a critical look at what graphene can and can’t currently do.

…Nobel Laureate Konstantin Novoselov and colleagues have written a critical, yet optimistic, assessment of the state of graphene research and production.

As they point out, there is a big question that must be answered before widespread adoption of graphene technology is possible: are graphene’s advantages sufficient to use it in place of the materials we use in existing devices? The authors conclude that, to some extent, that’s the wrong question. Graphene’s biggest promise lies in novel applications, designed especially for the advantages that graphene offers. [Read more…]

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