General Studies IIIScience and Tech

India’s First Graphene Innovation Centre in Kerala


Recently, the Kerala government announced that the country’s first Graphene Innovation Centre would come up in Thrissur, Kerala.

What is Graphene?

  • Graphene, a carbon material, is the thinnest and strongest material known.  It is also known as “The Wonder Material”.
  • It is a two-dimensional (2D) material composed of carbon atoms linked in a hexagonal lattice.
  • It is extracted from graphite. Graphite is arranged in 3D crystalline manner, whereas, graphene is a 2D crystal only an atom thick.
  • It came into the limelight after its exceptional quantum properties fetched Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics. Since then, many research projects have focused on its applications in nano-electronics.

What is the Graphene Innovation Centre?

  • An Innovation Center is a cross-functional plan that creates a safe haven for new ideas.
  • With opportunities for individual and group collaboration across time zones and continents, it’s a place that fosters a culture of innovation through the creation, sharing, and testing of ideas.
  • The India Innovation Centre for Graphene would come up in Thrissur at a cost of Rs 86.41 crore.
    • Of the 86.41-crore, the Union Government would provide Rs 49.18 crore and private business houses Rs 11.48 crore.
  • The state government would provide the basic infrastructure for the project. The Centre would help attract investors to develop graphene products.

What is its Significance?

  • The project would give a major fillip for scientific research as well as the state’s industrial sector.
  • Kerala’s human resources capital could be effectively exploited by the proposed Centre, which would help Kerala to emerge as a knowledge-based economy.

What are properties of Graphane? (Advantages)

  • It is about 200 times stronger than steel.
  • It is a better conductor of electricity & heat compared to copper.
  • It is nearly transparent.
  • It is impermeable to gases.

All these properties are exciting researchers and businesses around the world – as graphene has the potential to revolutionize entire industries – in the fields of electricity, conductivity, energy generation, batteries, sensors and more.

Why Graphene is important industrial metal?

  • Mechanical strength: Graphene is the world’s strongest material, and can be used to enhance the strength of other materials. Dozens of researchers have demonstrated that adding even a trace amount of graphene to plastics, metals or other materials can make these materials much stronger – or lighter (as you can use a smaller amount of material to achieve the same strength). Such graphene-enhanced composite materials can find uses in aerospace, building materials, mobile devices, and many other applications.
  • Thermal applications: Graphene is the most heat conductive found to date. As graphene is also strong and light, it means that it is a great material for making heat-spreading solutions, such as heat sinks or heat dissipation films. This could be useful in both microelectronics (for example to make LED lighting more efficient and longer lasting) and also in larger applications – for example thermal foils for mobile devices. Huawei’s latest smartphones, for example, have adopted graphene-based thermal films.
  • Energy storage: Since graphene is the world’s thinnest material, it also extremely high surface-area to volume ratio. This makes graphene a very promising material for use in batteries and super capacitors. Graphene may enable batteries and super capacitors (and even fuel-cells) that can store more energy – and charge faster, too.
  • The automotive & transportation industry is the largest application industry in the graphene market in terms of volume. The graphene can be used in various applications in automotive industry such as in composite structural components, automotive batteries, tires, anti-breaking systems, among others.
  • Graphene has a lot of promise for additional applications: anti-corrosion coatings and paints, efficient and precise sensors, faster and efficient electronics, flexible displays, efficient solar panels, faster DNA sequencing, drug delivery, and more.
  • Being a good conductor of electricity and highly flexible, this two-dimensional form of crystalline carbon has enormous number of applications ranging from electronic wearable devices, biomedical devices, sensors, fuel cells, semiconductors, field emission displays, Nano electrodes for inexpensive organic electronic devices such as organic photovoltaic (OPVs), liquid-crystal devices (LCDs), organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), super capacitors, fuel cells and batteries.

What are the disadvantages of Graphene?

  • Creation of high quality graphene is expensive and complex process.
  • Being  a  great  conductor  of  electricity, graphene cannot be switched off. Scientists are working on rectifying this.
  • The  main  disadvantage  of  graphene  as  a  catalyst  is  its  susceptibility  to  oxidative  environments.
  • In order to grow graphene, toxic chemicals are being used at high temperatures. Due to this it exhibits some toxic qualities.
  • Scientists  discovered  that  graphene  features  ultra-sharp  edges  that  can  easily  pierce  cell  membranes,  allowing  it  to  enter  into  the  cell  and  disrupt  normal  functions.
  • One of the obstacles that needs to be overcome is how to make sheets of
    graphene large enough and pure enough to be useful. Any non-carbon
    atoms can disrupt the perfect hexagonal pattern for graphene.

These  are  just  but  a  few  of  the  ‘wonder  material’s’  advantages  and  disadvantages  and  since  the  material  is  still in  the  research  stage  much  more  is  yet  to  be  revealed.

Challenges to Graphene industry in India:

  • The mass production of high-quality and defect-free graphene is still a restraint for all graphene manufacturers as the manufacturing process of graphene is cost-intensive and time-consuming. Maintaining the quality and up-scaling the graphene production at the same time are difficult. In case of any defects on the graphene monolayer carbon network, the properties of graphene such as electrical conductivity, transparency, thermal conductivity, and im-permeability are damaged, which hamper the quality of graphene. For producing high-quality monolayer and few-layer graphene, the CVD process is used, and it is difficult to attend mass production with the CVD process. These factors restrict the mass production of graphene and lead to a higher cost of production.
  • Lack of standardisation: The graphene industry is in its initial stage of development, and very little work is done in terms of regulations and standards. Several companies are producing various types of graphene materials, which is causing much diversification and confusion in the industry. This factor has resulted in fake graphene in the market, which is difficult to recognize at the product stage. This is leading to many cases of poor-quality graphene from suppliers and diminishing the trust among end-users.

Way forward:

  • Graphene, a form of carbon, is thought to be the material of the future. A sheet of graphene is just one atom thick: millions and millions times thinner than a sheet of paper.
  • It is remarkably light, and yet, hundred times stronger than steel, and has extraordinary electrical, thermal, and optical properties.
  • In the near future, many novel applications like flexible displays made of graphene, are expected to hit the market. If India wants to ride on the graphene bandwagon, it is imperative that it should find its own ways to manufacture the material.
  • ‘Ocean’, the result of a successful industry-academia collaboration, is definitely a step in the right direction.
  • The Government of India should take cognizance of the emerging scenario. Demand within the country is likely to grow rapidly with policy thrust on Make in India. As import dependence for the metal is set to increase, it is necessary to work towards augmenting graphene supplies from a long-term perspective.

Source: Indian Express

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