Graphene May Be Next Area of Innovation for Apple and Samsung
In a world where mobile devices are becoming thinner and thinner and in some cases being worn on the wrist or other parts of the body, graphene may be the wonder material of the future, with properties that make it stronger than steel, more flexible than rubber and more conductive than most metals. As a result, the material could initiate a new wave of innovation in hardware design and manufacturing that may lead to incredibly thin and flexible devices. According to Bloomberg, it also may become the next battlefield for Apple and Samsung.
Graphene is graphite, the material in pencils, arranged in a layer that is one atom thick. The arrangement of the carbon molecules makes the material stronger than steel and even diamonds. It also is flexible, conductive and so transparent that is nearly invisible to the naked eye. It can be applied to other materials, potentially allowing for the creation of flexible displays and bendable devices.
Apple, Samsung and Google are allegedly in an arms race to acquire patents and other intellectual property to cover the design and use of the material in both mobile and wearable devices. With global mobile device sales predicted to reach $847 billion by 2016 and wearable technology to explode to a $19 billion business in the next five years, the development of graphene may be critical to a company's ability to compete in the future electronics marketplace.
The biggest hurdle for the widespread adoption of graphene is the high cost of production. These technological and manufacturing issues are being addressed by Seoul National University professor Hong Byung Hee, who owns a patent for mass-producing graphene-based displays.
To unlock that potential, the world’s biggest electronics makers are turning to researchers such as Hong Byung Hee, a professor at Seoul National University, who’s developed a patent for mass-producing graphene-based displays.
"Global technology companies are facing innovation limits in hardware and design, and in order to step over to the next level, they need to adopt new materials like graphene," Hong said in an interview. “Our key graphene technology is receiving considerable interest from firms including Apple, Samsung and even Google."
Apple has been silent on its own research into the use of graphene, with Apple spokesperson Kristin Huguet declining to comment to Bloomberg on Hong's patent and the company's interest in the material. Unlike Samsung, Apple's own publicly available patents and applications addressing graphene are scant, but it seems the company is at least exploring what the material might be used for.