Scientists say they have invented the most transparent, lightweight and flexible material ever for conducting electricity.
The team at the University of Exeter claim the material, adapted from graphene and called GraphExeter, could revolutionise the creation of wearable electronic devices, such as clothing containing computers, phones and MP3 players.
GraphExeter could also be used for the creation of ‘smart’ mirrors or windows, with computerised interactive features.
“GraphExeter could revolutionise the electronics industry,” said lead researcher, University of Exeter engineer Dr Monica Craciun.
“It outperforms any other carbon-based transparent conductor used in electronics and could be used for a range of applications, from solar panels to ‘smart’ teeshirts.
“We are very excited about the potential of this material and look forward to seeing where it can take the electronics industry in the future.”
As GraphExeter is also transparent over a wide light spectrum the team say it could enhance the efficiency of solar panels by more than 30 per cent.
GraphExeter is much more flexible than indium tin oxide (ITO), the main conductive material currently used in electronics, which is also becoming increasingly expensive and is a finite resource, expected to run out in 2017.
The findings of the research, which was funded by the EPSRC and Royal Society, are published in Advanced Materials, a leading journal in materials science.
At just one-atom-thick, graphene is the thinnest substance capable of conducting electricity, is very flexible and is one of the strongest known materials.
The race has been on for scientists and engineers to adapt graphene for flexible electronics, which has proved a challenge to its sheet resistance, which limits its conductivity.
To create GraphExeter, the Exeter team sandwiched molecules of ferric chloride between two layers of graphene, which enhanced the electrical conductivity of graphene without affecting the material’s transparency.
The material was produced by a team from the University of Exeter’s Centre for Graphene Science, which brings together the Universities of Exeter and Bath in internationally-leading research in graphene.
The research team is now developing a spray-on version of GraphExeter, which could be applied straight onto fabrics, mirrors and windows.
Read the paper from Advanced Materials