You may recall Tony Stark in Iron Man 2 playing around with a cool-looking transparent phone that also acted as a remote control for his door lock and TV. How can this thin, flexible, translucent, and super tough smartphone ever be possible? Scientists tell us that the answer lies in the “miracle metal” graphene, a nanoparticle (about the size of an atom) made of pure carbon. Graphene is an allotrope — a structural modification — of carbon and has atoms arranged in a regular hexagonal pattern similar to graphite. Two Manchester University students won a 2010 Nobel Prize for its discovery. A very versatile metal, graphene is even stronger than steel, but is light enough to pick up. Here are some examples of how graphene is being used to transform your smartphone experience for the better.
Samsung Galaxy Skin
Image from GSMDome
One of Korean tech giant Samsung’s concept smartphones will use graphene to create flexible and nearly indestructible mobile touch screens. The phone incorporates AMOLED technology supplied by Universal Display Corporation to produce the beautiful screen on this device. This next-gen concept phone also features an 8MP camera, 32GB internal storage, a 1500mAh battery, Wi-Fi and 4G connectivity, and a 1.2 GHz processor. Aside from being super-thin, it is also meant to run on Google’s Android Flexy, an OS which automatically adjusts the interface in accordance to the phone’s current position and the app you’re currently using. If this phone ever sees the light of day, it could be in the running for one of the best and slickest business phones to hit the market.
Image from Nokia Research Center
When Nokia first unveiled its Nokia Morph concept devices, a lot of fans must have been awestruck. Using nanotechnology, morph devices can adapt its shape depending on your use. While the idea seems light years away, graphene may actually help turn this innovative dream into reality. The Nokia Morph project is featured in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) online exhibition “Design and the Elastic Mind.” It is a product of the collaborative efforts of the Nokia Research Center and the Cambridge Nanoscience Center.
Flexible Foam Batteries
You have the flexible smartphone, but where will you get the flexible battery? Researchers from China have the solution with this battery design created with graphene foam. The experimental form is based on lithium technology and has a similar capacity-to-weight ratio. The difference is that it is bendable and can also charge and discharge almost as fast as a capacitor. The result is a highly flexible and lightweight battery that can charge fully in fifteen minutes. Now that’s beyond awesome.
Improved Lithium Ion Batteries
A similar concept is a graphene-filled Li-on battery created by researchers from Northwestern University. Haruld Kung, lead author of the research paper, has found that graphene has improved the charge process, greatly increasing the amount of ions in the battery and making its charging capacity ten times faster.
Nokia Graphene Camera Sensor
At 41 megapixels, the Nokia 808 PureView’s camera is the largest smartphone camera sensor to date. However, this also means that there is a protruding bump on the handset’s back, somewhat akin to the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Thanks to graphene, making camera sensors smaller is now possible. The best part is that graphene can also capture photos effectively and evenly across a broad spectrum of frequencies, allowing for great low-light photos. Phone Arena says that Nokia has already been awarded the patent for this new camera sensor, but it remains to be seen if the Finnish company is actually going to use it for their next-gen products. I’m sure a lot of smartphone fans are going to respond with, “Do this, Nokia!”
Let’s hope that these future mobile technologies come to us in the very near future.