Wonder Material Sparks Rush to Invent New Gadgets

//

Bendable mobile phones, quick-charge batteries and unbreakable touch screens -- technology firms are racing to harness the potential of graphene, a wonder material that scientists say could transform consumer electronics.

A fine sheet of pure carbon, graphene is as thin as an atom, making it the skinniest material known.

Top 10 Uses for the World's Strongest Material

Graphene is the most promising new material out there, likely to revolutionize the way we do or build almost anything. It's pure carbon, and totally amazing. Trace shows us all the different ways this material could change life on Earth.

At the same time though, it is 100 times stronger than steel, hugely pliable and can conduct electricity and heat better than anything else.

"There are other materials which do have one of those properties each," physicist Kostya Novoselov -- who first isolated graphene in 2004 -- said at the Mobile World Congress, the sector's biggest trade fair, in Barcelona.

"What is amazing here is that all those qualities are combined in one simple crystal.

Superhero Vision Coming In Graphene Contact Lenses?

"Of course that immediately leaves us with a number of possible applications."

Novoselov, a Russian-born British citizen, and his colleague at Manchester University Andre Geim won the Nobel Prize for their work with graphene, sparking a flurry of interest in the new material.

The number of patents involving graphene soared from under 50 in 2004 to around 9,000 in 2014, according to Andrew Garland of research firm Future Markets, who puts out a twice-yearly report on the material.

E-Fabric Lights Up When It Detects Deadly Gas

"Most are in electronics," he said.

Samsung, the world's number one smartphone maker, has taken out the most graphene patents -- over 490 -- followed by China's Ocean's King Lighting and IBM.

While its real-world uses so far remain modest, research into possible applications for the material picked up steam in Europe after the European Union set aside one billion euros ($1.1 billion) in 2013 to be spent over ten years to investigate.

Recommended for you