Oxford University and the world’s strongest material | Varsity Education

Oxford University and the world’s strongest material

Researchers at Oxford university have made a giant step towards graphene becoming a material that could potentially change the world. Well it’s possible…

What’s so great about graphene?

Graphene is made from a layer of carbon one-atom thick, and because of its properties it has some pretty astounding possible applications1 for the future.

Here’s just a few possible uses:

  • Flexible, shatter-proof touchscreens
  • Super-fast upload speeds
  • High power supercapacitors
  • Bionic limb interface
  • Radioactive water filter

Discovered just under a decade ago, it’s totally flexible, more conductive than copper and it’s also the strongest material in the world!2

Graphene – It may be older than you’d think

Having theorised about graphene for decades, scientists think that graphene was unwittingly produced in small quantities for centuries through the use of pencils and other similar applications of graphite.

So what has Oxford University’s Department of Materials discovered?

Professor Nicole Grobert and co-writer of the study, DPhil student Vitaliy Babenko have discovered a way to make millimetre-sized high-quality graphene crystals in minutes rather than hours3. Normally it takes around 19 hours to produce large graphene crystals (around 2-3 millimetres in size). But the team claims to have found a way to make them in just under 15 minutes, which would mean they’ve discovered a cost-effective way to produce graphene at a commercial level.  Professor Nicole Grobert of Oxford University’s Department of Materials, who led the research, writes:

“Not only can we make millimetre-sized graphene flakes in minutes but this graphene is of a comparable quality to anything other methods are able to produce.”

The scientific bit

Using current chemical vapour deposition (CVD) techniques with platinum only, creates flakes of around 80 microns (0.08mm). But by using a liquid layer of platinum silicide they can create graphene crystals of 2-3 millimetres within minutes. Professor Grobert believes their discovery means:

“We’re now on the cusp of seeing this material make the leap from the laboratory to a manufacturing setting”

One that could revolutionize technology as we know it.

It’s pretty inspiring stuff. Even more so when you remember that this discovery and many like it are researched by not just professors but students as well. Both Oxford and Cambridge Universities, are famous for making significant discoveries in science and other areas that affect the way we live and think. It’s one of the many reasons so many people aspire to study there, and why competition for places is so high. Varsity Education offers courses to help students gain a competitive edge when applying to Oxbridge. We help polish your interview skills with one to one tuition, give assistance with applications forms and run mock exams to ensure you’re fully prepared for the real thing. Contact us today to find out when the next programme will be running and reserve your place.