Faster, Stronger, Better – Now!   Leave a comment

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Credit: Nanotech Magazine, December 2 2014 issue

How can one humble carbon atom change the world?  This mighty element, the giver of life of all that inhabits the universe, never ceases to wonder those who study it, apply it and make good use of its properties.  It’s responsible for planets, stars, people, steel, lighting, pencils – if there’s something to use, then it’s a safe bet carbon might have had a hand in it.

But you don’t need a whole truckload of the stuff to create something wonderful.  All you need is the tiniest of dabs, smaller than a dot.  Graphene, a carbon-based material only one atom in thickness and arranged in a honeycomb lattice, is what Superman is to humans – nearly indestructible.  Yet, in its simplest of forms, it’s not visible.  Stack it, however, and you have a mighty material even the most powerful of action heroes would have a tough time dismantling.

Haydale, a Welsh firm that specializes in the use of graphene, entered the limitless future of working with this one-atom thick miracle of carbon.  One of their projects is partnering with four other European firms to create biosensors for use in the medical field.  These biosensors will be used to detect the presence of pesticides, airborne pathogens, drug residues and more.

Graphene isn’t new news to the nanotech world.  Neither are metamaterials.

Metamaterials are constructed with subcomponents that are smaller than the wavelength of the radiation they are designed to manipulate.  Additionally, they contain properties that bend light, radio, sound and seismic waves in ways that don’t naturally occur.  There’s also testing to see if their properties can enhance magnification, dampen earthquake tremors, block the sun from damaging skin, among other applications.

What’s trending, though, is the combination of the two tiny technologies to produce giant wonders.  Now, when the two are combined, near-miraculous innovations occur. Coatings that deflect lasers is one application. The imagination is limitless when it comes to others.

Imagine a sheet of paper electronically charged, composed entirely of graphene and metamaterials.  There’s something like that already in the works.  Cars become safer, MRIs, X-Rays, most medical equipment completely rethought and repurposed.  Even cloaking capabilities, a necessary requirement of every single mode of off-world transportation in science fiction can theoretically become fact.

Look at it this way: carbon is the giver of life, in all its useful purposes and applications.  It’s an immortal being, utterly without prejudice.  Give it a task, it’ll handle it with pride.

If only the other carbon construction – humans – were so flexible, imagine the kind of place our world would be today.

 

 

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