It’s pretty common for all of us here to feel kind of dumb after reading about some scientific breakthrough or other. Sometimes you forget that just because you can master a new operating system in a day, or figure out a hack to make your smartphone do something funny, doesn’t mean you’re actually smart. The smart people are the people who figured out how to make the CPU. The smart people are the folks who invented Velcro. We’re just monkeys who mash buttons and then cunningly remember the patterns that emerge, and eventually put it all together to make something happen. We’re not smart. We’re just clever. The smart people include Nokia and the people who discover graphene.
Graphene: Material of the Future!
Graphene’s pretty amazing. It’s pure carbon, with the atoms arrange in a honeycomb or hexagonal pattern in a sheet exactly one atom thick, making it two-dimensional:
That means that graphene is incredibly strong, incredibly flexible, and incredibly conductive. In other words, it’s possibly the most useful thing ever discovered in the modern age. If you stack some graphene sheets on top of each other they aren’t graphene any more, they’re graphite, just FYI. In case the subject comes up at parties and you don’t want to look like a moron. Not that this has ever happened to us.
The uses of graphene are sometimes a bit obscure, but if you think about them they become amazing. For one, you can create electrodes with a large surface area, because graphene is a sheet, and a very low electrical resistance. Graphene is also the strongest material known to man, 300 times stronger than steel – and yet it’s one atom thick. It’s transparent and bendable, too – if you can’t imagine a million uses for that, my friends, you have the imagination of Michael Bay. Graphene has potential applications as computer displays (cheaper than OLED and just as clear and bright), batteries that charge faster, chemical sensors – the list goes on.
Nokia and Graphene and $1.35 Billion
So it’s no wonder that the world is pretty eager to throw some money at graphene, and recently Nokia, as part of a research consortium that includes 73 companies and academic institutions, recently received $1.35 Billion from the European Union for the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) to develop manufacturing processes and applications for graphene.
Most of us know Nokia as the Finnish phone maker who once dominated the market but whose phone division has seen better days, and only recently Nokia had a big celebration for the World’s Tiniest Profit for a Multinational Corporation. But now, consider a future world where Nokia has developed a manufacturing process for its phones using graphene in a variety of ways. The Nokia phones are super-light and super-thin. The screens are bright and cheap. The battery recharges Nokia phone in minutes. And they get to develop all of this on someone else’s dime – that’s genius. Sure, they have to share the technology, but Nokia will still have a definite advantage that will last for years.
The BBC recently reported that graphene can be used to distill alcohol. Since the technology of booze hasn’t advanced much in the last few centuries, we implore Nokia to make this research their top priority – who’s with us!