The article focuses a bit on whether graphene can replace silicon, which I think kind of misses the point. The material will enable exciting new applications rather than merely transforming existing ones.
I'm also kinda bummed that this kind of research doesn't have a higher profile in the US. This is high-ass-tech and is probably an area in which our oil companies could play a very large role with their competencies at running large, highly complex, raw material production systems.
Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?
So, I'm wondering how and where I should be investing to take advantage of this materials revolution. Seems like a pretty obvious bet to make, but it seems to be spread across many companies and with an indeterminate schedule (some say 5 years, some say 10, some say "we don't know"). And, more importantly, so many of the companies involved are too big for one product or even one line of products to make a huge dent in their bottom line. I've invested in IBM and Intel in the past based on research in the pipeline, and while the products did come to fruition and did prove to be good for the companies bottom line, the stock market didn't respond as much as one would hope (but probably about what I should have expected, had I really done the analysis of how it would effect their bottom line).
I'm not sure I follow you on the oil companies, though. Sure, they've been a major player in the plastics pipeline forever, but, if graphene isn't made from petroleum derivatives, I'm not sure it is a natural fit for oil companies. I would say the folks building LCD panels and other silicon-based products are the obvious candidates for some graphene products (and Samsung seems to be near the front of the pack in products based on graphene)...but maybe it'll be some other segment altogether (solar panel makers like Sharp and Kyocera, perhaps?).
Whatever happens, I want in, at least as an investor. So, I guess next time I review my portfolio (which currently contains GOOG and nothing else) I'm gonna do some more research on graphene. It's probably not a big rush to find the right companies...since it'll be a very long bet, anyway.
Find out which schools are doing the most interesting research in this area, and then talk with the tech transfer people at each university. They should be more than happy to hook you up.
Edit: didn't reply to the bigger point about oil companies. I kinda threw that out there as a quick thought and agree with you that the semiconductor, semi-co materials, or LCD guys might be better positioned. That said, few companies are as good at gathering, refining, processing and shipping gigatons of carbon as the oil companies.
That's abstracting too far. The food industry ships around gigatons of carbon too, which is just as "graphenic" as oil, namely, zero. Pencil manufacturers actually use graphene, but it seems unlikely they're going to lead this drive either.
In all seriousness, though, I think we're at a point with graphene comparable to the earliest days of the integrated circuit. We can imagine faster and smaller adding machines, but we can't quite yet imagine an IBM PC running VisiCalc. And the iPhone isn't even science fiction yet.
Graphene gets a ton of attention, do not worry. It is one of the most competitive areas of materials science research. When my former gradschool groupmate did his proposal on it and all the experiments he wished to do for his PhD thesis (keep in mind he spent a year putting this proposal together) most of the experiments had already been done by the time his proposal was actually accepted. When I left the program, there was literally a "groundbreaking" paper per a week coming out in Science or Nature, and all the other publications were being flooded.
My reading is that the material is toxic only in certain configurations. More than less? In this case just as much research should be done to find optimal parameters rather than just rushing ahead with blind greed.
Also consider water aka H2O. Have a sip of it and your mouth feels better. Have several cups and you're refreshed and body replenished for the day. Have 50 gallons go down your pipes and you are dead. Same molecule, phase, and microstructure. But water is extremely old and long studied and literally falling out of the sky for millions of years while humans on the planet. Not so, graphene.
Believe me, I think it's cool and sexy and do hope it enables all kinds of breakthroughs, I do. I'm just skeptical about whether it won't unleash horrible health problems down the road, due to incompetent and/or corrupt testing/approval bureaucracy, especially in the USA.
* Anonymous Metagenics Dockworker - MorganLink 3DVision Live Interview
>... [the equivalent of] 6422 kg on a cable with cross-section of 1 mm2
a unit of explosive power chiefly used for nuclear weapons, equivalent to one million tons of TNT"
Mega- is a standard SI prefix, and the use of "megaton" to denote one million tons is entirely correct. Yes, it's also true that "megaton" has a second meaning. This fact does not invalidate its other meaning. In fact, if you bother looking this up in actual dictionaries, you'll find that the normal mass definition is often listed first, and the explosive definition is listed second, for what it's worth.
In any case, I am glad I learned something new today!
But (Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri) is an American game and it could actually refer to a non-metric megaton
It's the raw manufacturability that silicon has. It's by far the easiest material to work with. It's abundant, cheap, and easy to obtain. It's got properties that lend it to easy junction doping and easy annealing. It's easy to deposit new layers on top of etched silicon. It's got a lattice that matches up nicely with the materials you'd want to use for contacts.
In short, the advantages of silicon aren't in it's ability to make transistors. It's in it's ability to make transistors while on a high volume assembly line.
It's going to be a while if we see whether graphene can match silicon for that.
Only time will show if dense packed transistors on a chip can be build cheap and reliably.
I've worked in the field of nanoscale electronic stuff, and I don't believe anything will replace silicon for a long time; at least not until we've completely run out of ways to do things better with silicon.
It's silicon that's the true miracle material -- it's versatile and cheap and amazingly easy to build stuff out of. We've been talking about replacing silicon for a while, but we keep coming back to it. It's all about silicon for the next couple of decades at least.
edit: Sorry, not to much new information here. They also mention it in the original submission.
There are also a range of applications in the military and security industries.
Not that I really know what I'm talking about, but that was my line of thinking…