WTF is “graphene,” you ask? It’s a form of carbon with specs that make it sound like we’re describing a superhero: It’s 200 times stronger than steel, so small an ounce can cover 28 football fields, so light a cubic inch of it can land on a blade of grass without bending it. It’s also super cheap, mega malleable and can conduct heat and electricity all while resisting damage when submerged in water.
Oh, now you’re saying WTF for a totally different reason. Well so is the tech world, because that little transparent material is about to change everything — from the way our go-to gadgets look and feel to the way those devices interact with our bods. We dreamed up 10 pieces of tech on our future wish list that might just be possible with a little help from graphene.
1. An Unbreakable Smartphone: Let’s start with a basic need. If you have a smartphone, you’ve probably dropped or damaged that smartphone making you feel, well, not-so-smart. Since we’re talking about a material that’s stronger than steel and resistant to water, we’re envisioning a lightweight phone you could hurl into a pool… and only worry that you might interrupt someone doing laps. (Photo)
2. Smartphone as Smoke Detector: Graphene is already being used in experiments to build gas sensors so what if a piece of your phone (think modular, like Project Ara!) would detect and alert you if there was carbon monoxide or another noxious substance in the air. Sorry, Nest, we might not need you when our phone can do your job for you…
3. Bookmark-Sized E-Reader: Experts speculate graphene could be used to make paper-thin gadgets — so how about an e-reader the size of a piece of paper? It could even roll up to the size of a pencil when you’re on the go. (Photo)
4. Bouncy GoPro: Remember Weebles? They were plastic toys that wobbled but didn’t fall over. Graphene is pliable like rubber and can be clear so what if you could embed a camera into it and have an action cam as unbreakable as our smartphone (pls see above) to capture any shot you rolled its way.
5. Reeeeally Wearable Gym Clothing: Sure, sure, graphene could easily find its way on the scene in flexible custom wearables, but let’s take that idea a step farther. We’re not just talking bands that are water resistant, flexible and custom-fit to your wrist (although, yes, those too) we’re imagining gym clothes, shoes and accessories that track your performance as you go the distance.
6. E-Invitations: Oh, not the kind you’re thinking of. If you could make paper-thin gadgets on the cheap, what about reworking the idea of “paperless post” with an interactive invitation you could mail, then have the receiver craft and upload their RSVP to send back. Just spit balling here, guys!
7. Swimmables: Graphene is water resistant and doesn’t oxidize when submerged in liquid so it could be the material of choice for any tech (whether waterproof speakers or lap trackers) that might go for a swim or just hang out by the beach.
8. Charger-less Computers and Cells: Okay, not charger-less for life, but at least when you leave the house. Even if you’re leaving it for a week-long vacay. Researchers at Northwestern University made a cellphone battery using graphene and silicon that lasted over a week on a single charge. AND it only took 15 minutes to juice up. Sign us up yesterday. Or ten years from now.
9. Wearables That Tuck You in: Graphene can interact with your body’s biological systems, so we’re imagining a wearable that could turn off your devices for you — like that Netflix/FitBit hack, but once it senses you’re falling asleep every device in your home responds. The thermostat reaches your ideal sleeping temperature, your gadgets go to “off,” the light in the bathroom dims on, your TV turns off… and your coffee machine starts when you start stirring in the AM. (Photo)
10. Cases That Act as Chargers: Imagine electric cars crafted with bodies that both protect it and act as solar panels to charge it — this is something carmakers are already exploring with graphene making up the body, natch. An idea like this could be extended to devices like smartphones and laptops, of course, but what about a fold-up grill that could get you fired up at your future picnic?
Bonus/Personal Request – Headphones That Never Die: As a runner I’m always refilling my headphone supply because sweat (ew, but true) gets inside and ultimately messes up my jock jams. From what I deduce, graphene buds would be lightweight, water resistant and pretty freaking durable. Most of the above probably won’t happen for quite some time. Surely I can get this sooner? Yay? Nay?
Any electronic you can use, could eventually be made better with graphene — what could you imagine it being used to create or enhance?
(h/t: The New York Times)