Flexible electronics are shepherding us into a new age of technology, an age that at one time only existed in sci-fi films. For many, the term flexible electronics is still incoherent. Even more perplexing is how something like flexible electronics could even be possible. For a long time, it wasn’t, but everything changed with the introduction of the ground-breaking material graphene.
Understanding Flexible Electronics
Flexible electronics are a new approach to assembling electronic circuits. Instead of using traditional circuit boards, the electronic circuits are mounted onto devices by using flexible materials like transparent conductive polyester. Since the circuit board is made from flexible material, it can be transformed and molded into unique shapes. Flexible electronics are entirely dependent upon the composite materials or, more specifically, the materials used in making the circuit boards.
What is Graphene?
The introduction of graphene into the flexible electronics space has been tremendous. Founded by two researchers at Manchester University, Graphene is a semimetal composed from a single layer of carbon atoms. The material is a byproduct of graphite, an allotrope found in the material charcoal. What makes graphene truly unique is its atomic structure. It is arranged in a hexagonal lattice; this arrangement gives graphene unique traits including flexibility, strength, and transparency. Graphene is also ultra-thin, so thin that it’s considered two-dimensional.
Advancements in Flexible Electronics
Unsurprisingly, the flexible nature of graphene has permitted its wide adoption, offering unique opportunities to develop fully flexible devices. Two of the primary focuses of graphene development have been geared towards wearable technologies and IoT devices. The foundational building block for wearable devices is flexible circuits. Flexible circuits are electrical roadmaps with resistors and capacitors.
Another application is in microwave-frequency wireless communication receivers. These receivers enable connection between flexible devices and networks, perfect for IoT devices.
Shakers and Movers
It’s clear that Graphene is amazing, but who are the people working behind the scenes to bring graphene to the world? The Graphene Flagship is a European initiative that has been focusing on this task; the flagship represents a collaborative effort to bring graphene to the EU, backed by €1 billion and hundreds of members. Large-scale research institutions like the University of Cambridge have also been instrumental, especially in the field of flexible electronics. From a production standpoint, there are few companies in the space working to make advancements in graphene. One of these companies is GraphenTech, the world’s first blockchain-based graphene company. GraphenTech is developing proprietary technology that will enable the manufacturing of graphene on an industrial scale for a competitive price.
Flexible electronics are still new to many people, but with the introduction and dissemination of popular products, it’s only a matter of time before the concept becomes widely recognized. Graphene, on the other hand, may take a bit longer. But, one thing’s for sure: its revolutionary capabilities will be working behind the scenes to bring us the electronics of tomorrow.Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.