Graphene to shape future


    In Context

    The 21st century seems to become the age of graphene.

    About Graphene 

    • It is a two-dimensional form (allotrope) of carbon that consists of a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice. 
    • Properties: It is the world’s thinnest, strongest, and most conductive material of both electricity and heat. 
      • It conducts electricity better than copper.
      • It is 200 times stronger than steel but six times lighter. It is almost perfectly transparent as it absorbs only 2% of light.
      • It is impermeable to gases, even those as light as hydrogen and helium. 

    Applications and Potential

    • Graphene composites are used in automotive, sports equipment and construction. 
    • It is used for high-performance batteries and super-capacitors, touchscreens, and conductive inks. 
    • Graphene-based sensors are used for environmental monitoring, healthcare and wearable devices. 
    • Graphene oxide membranes are used for water purification and desalination.
    • Graphene-based masks were made during COVID.
    • Graphene is important for defence and aerospace as well. Its exceptional strength makes it a promising material for armour and ballistic protection. 
    • Graphene has the potential to absorb and dissipate electromagnetic waves, making it valuable for developing stealth coatings and materials that reduce radar signatures and electromagnetic interference. 
    • Graphene is highly sensitive to environmental changes, which makes it an excellent candidate for sensing chemical and biological agents, explosives, radiation, and other hazardous substances. 
      • Besides, graphene-based materials can also protect us against chemical and biological attacks. 

    Global Leaders 

    • Among the leading countries in graphene research are China, the U.S., the U.K., Japan, South Korea, Russia, and Singapore. 
    • China and Brazil are global leaders in the commercial production of graphene. 
    • In 2018, China filed 218 patents while the other leading countries together filed 79.
      •  India had eight filings.

    Indian Scenario

    • India’s niche is going to be innovation using graphene. It figured out how graphene oxide-based wrappers loaded with preservatives can increase the shelf life of fruits and vegetables. 
    • India produces about one-twentieth compared to China and one-third compared to Brazil.
    • India’s progress has been better than many nations.


    •  The Centre for Nano Science and Engineering at IISc Bangalore along with KAS Tech produced a graphene-based system several years ago. 
    • Some start-ups and foreign subsidiaries have started graphene or graphene derivatives in India. 
    • Tata Steel has succeeded in growing graphene (about 50 micrometres large domains) using annealing and extracting atomic carbon from steel surfaces.
      • It has also mixed graphene with used plastic products to recycle them as new.
    • The IIT Roorkee-incubated Log 9 has patented a technology for graphene-based ultracapacitors, and the IIT Kanpur-incubated RF Nanocomposites has developed EMI shielding and stealth technology using graphene-based nanotubes. But this trickle needs to be converted into a torrent. 
    • A laudable step in this direction was the setting up of the India Innovation Centre for Graphene in Kerala. 

    Issues and Challenges

    • Given the high cost-to-volume ratio for high-grade graphene, its production may get concentrated in a few locations in the world, as in the case of semiconductors. 
    • Although graphene was discovered in 2004, it was difficult to produce high-grade large-scale graphene.

    Way Ahead 

    • India needs to catch up in the research and production of graphene, which is the defining material of this age
    • The Centre needs to become the nodal point to spur large-scale innovation activity around graphene.
      • A nodal Ministry needs to be entrusted with this responsibility; else the subject will fall through the cracks. India needs to be among the leaders in graphene because we may experience the ‘winner takes the most’ situation here. 
    • India missed the semiconductor bus in the mid-1990s. The time to step on the graphene pedal is now.
      • Governments have a crucial role to play. 

    Source: TH


    Mains Practice Question 

    [Q] What are the properties and potential of Graphene which make it interesting for both fundamental studies and future applications?