Graphene continues to be a popular point of study for researchers. And, it’s obvious why. It contains many properties that researchers and manufacturers want to harness. By weight, graphene is 200 times stronger than steel. It’s also an extremely good conductor of heat and electricity.

Yesterday, a team of researchers at Chalmers University of Technology outlined a new method for cooling electronics.

Previous research already showed graphene can help cool silicon-based electronics.

Johan Liu, a professor at Chalmers University of Technology, talked about what problems he and his researchers ran into in previous research.

“But the methods that have been in place so far have presented the researchers with problems”, says Liu. “It has become evident that those methods cannot be used to rid electronic devices off great amounts of heat, because they have consisted only of a few layers of thermal conductive atoms. When you try to add more layers of graphene, another problem arises, a problem with adhesiveness. After having increased the amount of layers, the graphene no longer will adhere to the surface, since the adhesion is held together only by weak van der Waals bonds.”

How did they solve the adhesion issues? The researchers added a molecule to alter graphene’s properties. (3-Aminopropyl) triethoxysilane (APTES) molecules did the trick. It helped create the necessary bonds between the graphene and the electronic component.

This method also doubled the thermal conductivity of the graphene. Compared to copper, this thin film of graphene has four times the thermal conductivity capacity.

graphene film

Image credit: Johan Liu

Graphene sounds awesome, right? It is.

Liu says the potential uses for this thin graphene film include more efficient LEDs and faster, smaller and more efficient high-powered electronics.

The graphene-film research was published in the journal Advanced Materials.

Graphene’s promise held down by one problem

There is one problem, and it’s a big one. Producing graphene is a pain. One way early researchers did this is by using sticky tape. Yep, you read that right. Researchers would stick tape to graphite and peal it away. They would repeat the process over and over until they had the one-atom-thick layer of graphene.

What about widespread production? That’s the biggest issue with graphene. Researchers just haven’t found a good way to produce it on a scale needed for commercial use.

Still, researchers have only been heavily researching graphene for about a decade.

Could graphene replace silicon in our electronics? Sure, but there are still major obstacles for graphene to overcome. Mainly, producing it. Or, it could be just be a pit stop to the next incredible material waiting to be discovered or created.

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