Flexible computer or mobile phone screens have moved a step closer after two British companies began selling inks based on #graphene, the super-thin, super-strong material first isolated a decade ago.
Haydale, a Swansea University spinout that makes graphene in commercial quantities, has developed the ink with Gwent Electronic Materials, a supplier of inks and pastes for electronic instruments and sensors.
They said the graphene inks could enable the commercialisation of flexible displays and touch screens, “smart” packaging, thin photovoltaics and transparent electrodes.
Ray Gibbs, commercial director of Haydale, said: “Graphene has been described as a ‘zero billion dollar market’, mainly because many of the applications that have been discussed are dependent on production technologies that are yet to be developed commercially. The immediate use of [our] materials . . . allows many of the key applications to be realised in the near term.” He said it was a “significant milestone”.
Researchers have yet to discover a method of stretching graphene – a one-atom-thick layer of carbon 100 times stronger than steel but more conductive than carbon – across a surface. The tiny graphene platelets dispersed in the ink could be sprayed or printed on to form a large area with graphene-like qualities.
Volvo, the Swedish vehicle maker, said graphene could be used in engine components, batteries, cooling fluids, electric motors, energy storage and exhausts.
Nokia, the Finnish smartphone manufacturer, said it hoped it could replace #indium tin oxide in touchscreens, as it was in limited supply, brittle and rising in price.
Aircraft makers such as BAE Systems and Spirit are also researching how to use graphene to make aircraft lighter.