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By 2 July 2010 | Categories: gizmos

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If someone told you we'd be able to roll up our tablet computers like a newspaper, stick it under our arms and go to work, you may call them crazy. This amazing, albeit futuristic concept may however be close to fruition. Universities across the globe have been working on ways to produce flexible touch-screens for a number of years now, but without too much success. So what's changed?

Introducing graphene, a sheet of carbon just one atom thick, which some has hailed as the miracle material. It's ultra thin, ultra strong, transparent, flexible and most importantly, electrically conductive.
 
According to Technology Review graphene isn't actually new. It was discovered more than thirty years ago but scientists have been struggling continuously with manufacturing sheets of the stuff. Until very recently they have only been able to produce flecks, much like pencil shavings.
 
Driven by its potential applications in touch-screens and other devices, researchers at Samsung and Sungkyunkwan University in Korea, have produced a continous layer of pure graphene the size of a large television set. To achieve this they spooled it through rollers on top of a flexible, see-through, 63 cm wide polyester sheet.
 
"It is engineering at its finest," says James Tour, a professor of chemistry at Rice University who has been working on ways to make graphene by dissolving chunks of graphite. "People have made it in a lab in little tiny sheets, but never on a machine like this."
 
Using the polymer-supported graphene the team has already created a flexible touch-screen, using the polymer based material to make the screen's transparent electrodes. The material currently used to manufacture transparent electronics, indium tin oxide, is expensive and brittle compared to graphene. For additional information on how the production process works take a look at this piece by New Scientist.
 
Producing graphene on flexible polyester sheets is the first step in making transparent electronics that are stronger, cheaper, and more flexible.
 
Photo's courtesy of Wired and Technology Review.

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