Physicists from the United States accidentally discovered that graphene can generate energy with the help of the environment and already in the near future will become a new word in energy and bionics.
The existence of graphene in nature is a phenomenon that became possible due to the fact that scientists found a “loophole” in the laws of physics and forced a continuous two-dimensional atomic cloth to behave like a three-dimensional material. More and more new studies reveal useful applications of this material, and the forecasts sound very encouraging: it turned out that graphene can be used to obtain an almost infinite number of energy!
The team of physicists, led by researchers from the University of Arkansas, made the discovery quite by accident. The original purpose of their tests was to study the vibration of graphene – but for what?
We are all familiar with granular graphite, which is commonly used together with ceramic components to create a pencil rod. The black streak that remains after the pencil lead passes through the paper is, in fact, thin sheets of carbon atoms that slide easily over each other. For many years physicists have wondered: Is it possible to isolate such a sheet and make it an independent two-dimensional plane?
In 2004, physicists from Manchester University succeeded. To exist separately from each other, sheets of carbon atoms need to behave like a three-dimensional material to provide the necessary stability. It turned out that the “loophole” in this case is the displacement of mobile atoms, which gives graphene the properties of the third dimension. In other words, graphene was never 100% flat-it vibrated at the atomic level so that its connections did not undergo spontaneous decay.
Precisely in order to measure the level of this displacement and vibration, physicist Paul Tibado recently led a group of graduate students and made a very simple study with them. The scientists laid graphene sheets on a special copper network and observed changes in the positions of atoms with a microscope. However, the figures for some reason did not match the expected model. Moreover, from the test to the test, the data varied.
Graphene as an energy source
Tibado decided to lead the experiment in another direction, trying to find a suitable template and changing the way for analyzing the data. Researchers divided each image obtained during the measurement into sub-images. The strategy turned out to be correct: a large-scale picture did not allow us to study the laws of the motion of atoms, but the analysis of its details as a result allowed us to find out something interesting. It was assumed that the sheets of graphene moved on the same principle as the bent sheets of metal – but this assumption was false.
It turned out that the whole thing is in the so-called “Levi flights” – templates of small random oscillations, combined with sudden, sharp shifts. Similar systems were previously observed in biological and climatic systems, but on an atomic scale physicists saw them for the first time. Measuring the speed and scale of these graphene waves, Tibado suggested that they can be used to extract energy from the environment.
While the temperature of the medium prevents the “comfortable” movement of graphene atoms relative to each other, they will continue to pulsate and flex. Place the electrodes on both sides of a section of this graphene – and you’ll get a tiny generator. According to calculations, a 10×10 micron graphene graph has a capacity of 10 microwatts. Considering that there can be as many as 20,000 such squares on a pinhead, such a “power station” does not look very impressive, right? However, this power at room temperature will be enough to provide energy for some small gadget – for example, wrist watches. It is also interesting that in the future such a method of obtaining energy can lead to the creation of bioimplants, which will not require bulky batteries.
Currently, Tibado is already working with scientists from the US Naval Research Laboratory to understand if this strategy for the future exists. Perhaps it is graphene that will become the source of the “energy of the future”, which in the near future will allow the technologies to make a significant breakthrough.