New material ‘could revolutionize electronics’

A team from the University of Exeter says it’s discovered the most transparent, lightweight and flexible material ever for conducting electricity.

Called GraphExeter, it’s a natural for wearable electronic devices, such as clothing containing computers, phones and MP3 players, but could also be used in ‘smart’ mirrors or windows, with computerised interactive features.

Because the material is also transparent over a wide light spectrum, it could enhance the efficiency of solar panels by more than 30 percent.

“GraphExeter could revolutionize the electronics industry. 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,” says University of Exeter engineer Dr Monica Craciun.

“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.”

Currently, indium tin oxide (ITO) is the main conductive material used in electronics. But it’s becoming increasingly expensive and is actually expected to run out in 2017.

Adapted from graphene, GraphExeter is much more flexible than ITO, says the Exeter team – and is the first really viable alternative.

To create it, the team sandwiched molecules of ferric chloride between two layers of graphene. The ferric chloride enhances the electrical conductivity of graphene, without affecting the material’s transparency.

The research team is now developing a spray-on version, which could be applied straight onto fabrics, mirrors and windows.