In September 2015 world leaders gathered at the historic UN summit to adopt the goal of sustainable development (SDG). Seventeen of these ambitious goals and indicators will help guide and coordinate government and international organizations to solve global problems. For example, SDG 3 provides for “ensuring a healthy lifestyle and affordable well-being for all at all ages”. Others include access to clean water, mitigation of climate change and health care.
If you think that these goals are difficult to achieve, you’re right. In all seventeen categories there are problems that will not allow them to happen before the designated date in 2030. However, in combination with progress in the socio-political arena of progress in science and technology can be a key accelerator of this process.
Let’s give all SDG goals:
Difficultly? Perhaps. But the scientists seem to have the answer. Just one word: graphene. A futuristic material with a growing set of potential applications.
Graphene consists of tightly connected carbon atoms arranged in the lattice with a one atom thick. This makes it the thinnest substance in the world that is 200 times stronger than steel, flexible, elastic, self-healing, transparent, conductive, and even superconducting. A square meter of graphene weighs only in grams 0,0077 can withstand a four kilograms load. It’s an amazing material, which, however, not surprising scientists and technicians.
Headlines touting graphene as the miracle material, appeared regularly for the past ten years, and the transition from promise to reality slightly delayed. But it is logical: to the new material found in all spheres of life, it takes time. Meanwhile, the years of graphene research have given us a long list of reasons not to forget about him.
Ever since graphene was first isolated in 2004 at the University of Manchester and this work earned the Nobel prize in 2010, scientists around the world have found new ways of using and, importantly, create the graphene. One of the main factors inhibiting the wide spread of graphene, was a large-scale production of cheap graphene. Fortunately, in this direction was made with seven-League steps.
Last year, for example, a group of Kansas state University used the explosions to synthesize large quantities of graphene. Her method is simple: fill the chamber with acetylene or with ethylene and oxygen. Use a spark plug of the car to knock. Collect formed on the graphene end. Acetylene and ethylene is composed of carbon and hydrogen, and when hydrogen is absorbed in the explosion, the carbon freely communicates with itself, forming graphene. This method is effective because all it takes is one spark.
If this method to start the graphene revolution, as some believe, remains to be seen. What is obvious is the fact that together with the onset of this revolution will begin to resolve many of the problems. For example…
The sixth goal of the SDG in listed as “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”. The UN estimates that “water scarcity affects more than 40% of the world population and, according to forecasts, will grow.”
Filters based on graphene could be the solution. Jiro Abraham from the University of Manchester helped to develop scalable sieve of graphene oxide for filtration of sea water. He argues that “the developed membrane is useful not only for desalination but also to change the size of the pores in the atomic scale, allowing you to filter ions according to their sizes”.
In addition, researchers from Monash University and the University of Kentucky have developed a graphene filters that can filter out anything larger than one nanometer. They say their filters can be used to filter chemicals, viruses or bacteria in liquids. They can be used for water purification, dairy products or wine or for production of pharmaceuticals.
Thirteenth goal in the SDG list on the adoption of “urgent measures to combat climate change and its consequences.”
Of course, one of the main culprits of climate change is the excessive amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. Graphene membranes could detect these emissions.
Scientists from the University of South Carolina and Hanyang University in South Korea independently developed filters based on graphene that can be used to separate the unwanted gases from industrial, commercial and residential emissions. Henry Foley University of Missouri claimed that these discoveries become “something of a Holy Grail”.
With their help, the world could stop the rise of CO2 in the atmosphere, especially now that we have overcome an important indicator 400 parts per million.
A lot of people around the world do not have access to adequate health care, but graphene can turn this question upside down.
First of all, the high mechanical strength of graphene makes it an ideal material for replacement body parts such as bones, and due to its conductivity, it can replace body parts that require electric current, for example, organs and nerves. In fact, scientists from Michigan technological University are working on using the 3D printers to print nerves on the basis of graphene, and the team develops biocompatible materials, using graphene to conduct electricity.
Graphene can also be used to create biomedical sensors for the detection of diseases, viruses and other toxins. As effects subjected every atom of graphene, due to the fact that graphene, a one atom thick, the sensors can be extremely sensitive. Sensors based on graphene oxide could detect the toxins at levels 10 times lower than required by modern sensors. They could be placed on the skin or under it, and to provide doctors and scientists with a wealth of information.
Chinese scientists have created a sensor capable of detecting only one cancer cell. Furthermore, scientists from the University of Manchester reported that graphene oxide can locate and neutralize cancer stem cells.
Ninth goal of SDG is to “create a robust infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation”. Composites reinforced with graphene, and other building materials can bring us closer to this goal.
Recent studies have shown that the more graphene is added, the better the composite. This means, graphene can be added to building materials — concrete, aluminum, making them stronger and lighter.
Rubber is also improved by the addition of graphene. A study conducted GrapheneFlagship and her partner Avanzare, said that “graphene enhances the functionality of the rubber, due to a combination of the electrical conductivity of graphene, and mechanical strength with excellent corrosion resistance”. Of these rubbers could be made more corrosion-resistant pipe.
The seventh goal — ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. Because of the ease, conductivity and tensile strength of graphene can make sustainable energy more efficient and cost effective.
For example, graphene composites could be used to create a more versatile solar panels. Researchers from mit say that “by using graphene, it is possible to make flexible, low-cost and transparent solar cells that can turn almost any surface into a source of electricity.”Thanks grafenauer composites it is also possible to create large and light wind turbines.
In addition, graphene is already being used to improve traditional lithium-ion batteries commonly used in consumer electronics. There are also studies of graphene aerogels for energy storage and supercapacitors. All that is needed for large-scale storage of clean energy.
Over the next decade, graphene will almost certainly find many uses in the real world and will not only help the UN and its members to achieve SDG goals, but also will improve everything in our world, from touch-screens to MRI devices and transistors.
Graphene could solve five major problems of the world