In September this year, the Cambridge Graphene Centre and Plastic Logic, a Cambridge-based company, successfully incorporated graphene in a transistor-based flexible device. The result was an active matrix electrophoretic display like the screen that e-readers use, except that it is flexible plastic instead of glass. Researchers of this flexi-screen combined graphene-imbued backplane electrophoretic imaging film so as to create an ultra-low power and very durable display. In the future this could be swapped for liquid crystal or organic light-emitting diodes to create the LCD and OLED screens we’re familiar with from our mobile devices and televisions.
Recent experiments with graphene have found it making electronic equipment more transparent, highly flexible (more flexible than indium-tin oxide and the like), strong and durable, and offer unparalleled electrical conductivity. This opens the gates to a whole new future of foldable electronics.
In another research experiment, scientists at MIT discovered that crumpling a piece of graphene sheet yielded properties that helped create highly stretchable supercapacitors that enhanced storage capacity in electronic devices. When put to commercial use, this technology will highly benefit wearable and implantable medical devices that not only need to be flexible but also have high power-storage systems.
Samsung’s giant leap
While many research institutions are experimenting with this block of supercarbon, Samsung and Nokia are undoubtedly the two prominent corporate researchers in this segment. In fact, in April this year, Samsung announced its “groundbreaking method” of commercializing graphene for electronic devices such as flexi screens for wearable and other futuristic equipment. This synthesis method for growing a single crystal wafer graphene with a large surface area was discovered by The Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT) in partnership with Sungkyunkwan University.
So what’s special about this discovery? In the past, a multi-crystal synthesis resulted in deterioration of the supercarbon’s electrical and mechanical properties. This meant that the wafer was not viable for commercial application and therefore, limited its range of application. Samsung’s effort to repeatedly synthesize a single crystal and enlarge the surface area of a graphene wafer is a giant leap towards ending the shortcomings of a multi-crystal surface.
Samsung’s graphene knowledge bomb
On February 27 this year, Samsung filed for a patent that has the potential to become a key patented technology for touch screens. The patent (US 20140055407) describes a touch display that comprises of a touch substrate, sensing electrodes and a touch processor. The touch substrate senses the touch of the user and may be made of flexible material (like plastic). The sensing electrodes are spaced apart on the touch substrate and are made of material whose resistance value varies according to a force applied. Graphene may be used as sensing electrode material, thereby allowing the display to sense the amount of force applied by the user.
In a bid to overcome the brittle properties of the sparsely available Indium Tin Oxide (ITO), Samsung in its patent numbered US 8390589 describes a technology that uses nanostructures such as Graphene as the transparent conductor in a touch screen display. The display has two transparent conductors separated by a spacer and a transparent substrate is placed on both the conductors in the following manner:
This structure renders the device with higher power efficiency, which is becoming a much needed property in today’s power-crunch world.
Yet another Samsung patent – US 8294972 – comes as a boon for a large number of mobile users who often find it difficult to read data displays under bright light. The patent describes a method to include graphene or a graphite layer that is imbued with the property to absorb light in accordance with the electrical field applied to it.
(Featured image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allotropes_of_carbon#/media/File:K_4_crystal.JPG)