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Conductive graphene yarn is lighter and stretchier than copper wire

By

June 23, 2014

The super-stretchy graphene yarn

The super-stretchy graphene yarn

Copper electrical wiring may soon be facing some stiff competition – or actually, some very stretchy competition. Scientists at Pennsylvania State University and Japan's Shinshu University recently created a "super-stretchable" conductive yarn made from graphene.

The researchers started by chemically exfoliating flakes of graphene from a block of graphite. Those flakes were then mixed with water, and that mixture was concentrated into a slurry using a centrifuge. That slurry was then spread across a plate and allowed to dry, forming into a thin transparent film of graphene oxide.

The film was subsequently peeled off the plate and cut into narrow strips, those strips in turn getting wound together using an automatic fiber scroller.

The resulting yarn can be knotted and stretched without fracturing, and is said to be much stronger than other types of carbon fibers – this quality could be due to the presence of tiny air pockets within it.

Removing oxygen from the material boosts its electrical conductivity, and adding silver nanorods to it in the film-fabricating stage could reportedly boost that conductivity further, to the point of matching that of copper. Its stretchability and lighter weight, however, could make it a better alternative in many applications.

A paper on the research was recently published in the journal ACS Nano.

Source: Penn State

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
6 Comments

Confusing term: graphene oxide. Since graphene is merely a hexagonal array of carbon, oxidizing THAT will just yield CO2, which is useless. A web search does reveal some use of the term; it seems to mean a flake of graphene with oxidation around the edges. I guess you have to do something with the edges.

Also, you need to improve the conductivity by adding silver. Really!? Yes, silver is a great conductor. It's also very expensive. So just saying "add silver" it pretty dumb. How much silver? What does that do to the cost of the product? Now that I think of it, there's no mention of cost here at all. I have no doubt that we can make great conductors, if cost is no object. In practice, you have to compare with the cost of aluminum. If you can beat the cost of aluminum, then you have a product; if not, you just have a curiosity.

piperTom
24th June, 2014 @ 07:54 am PDT

It might be possible to make it as conductive as copper, but not as cheap, surely? Mind you with copper ore enrichment now down to 0.2% and falling, how long that state of affairs will last is anyone's guess.

Mel Tisdale
24th June, 2014 @ 08:39 am PDT

PiperT & Mel both have valid points. I suggest that this woven graphene is not individually good for much except as a labtoy. I do think it is one piece of some other puzzle that no may yet have thought of. This stuff is an interesting building block for something to come.

StWils
25th June, 2014 @ 07:17 am PDT

There are many misconceptions of what graphene actually is. In this case, it is a borderline definition. Graphene, a semi-metal, is a one-atom-thick, crystal-like structure; in essence, an actual two-dimensional material. In that pristine state (not particularly easy to get to, and not reachable by using the above method), anything over five layers substantially reduces it's inherent properties. Some of which are: near-transparence, extremely high heat and electrical conductivity (not needing silver or any other conductive material to help), massively strong (more than 100-times stronger than steel), bendable, inert.

The theoretical existence of graphene goes back to the late 1800s, and a scientific awareness dates back to the late 40s, but its commercial promise is only just starting to be understood, let alone realized.

This thread is not a true graphene product, but in the same family. Stuff like this shows the promise, but won't be viable for many years to come. It's a bit of a wild material with a mind of its own. It has great promise in coatings and polymers, among other applications.

Good to see the incremental progress, though. Once it can be controlled in the manufacturing process, and its properties when integrated with other materials become better known, it will be revolutionary.

Lucky2BHere
25th June, 2014 @ 11:49 am PDT

You ridiculously silly goats. Silver is expensive?!!? Gold is 20 times the price and used in commonly used products as contact surfaces in your computer tower. You can buy peripheral boards with their gold contacts for $20.

Noel K Frothingham
1st July, 2014 @ 05:38 pm PDT

Did no one else notice that the amount of silver used IS NOT SPECIFIED?

Noel K Frothingham
1st July, 2014 @ 05:40 pm PDT
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