The New Yorker published an article that tackles the question of what exactly graphene will be used for. Widely considered a “wonder material,” there is some concern that excitement about graphene will come to naught if that question can’t be answered.
In particular, the piece looks at work being done by James Tour, a professor at Rice University in Singapore. His lab has filed many graphene patents.
As quoted in the market news:
New discoveries face formidable challenges in the marketplace. They must be conspicuously cheaper or better than products already for sale, and they must be conducive to manufacture on a commercial scale. If a material arrives, like graphene, as a serendipitous discovery, with no targeted application, there is another barrier: the limits of imagination. Now that we’ve got this stuff, what do we do with it?
Some highly touted discoveries fizzle altogether. In 1986, the I.B.M. researchers Georg Bednorz and K. Alex Müller discovered ceramics that acted as radically more practical superconductors. The next year, they won a Nobel, and an enormous wave of optimism followed. ‘Presidential commissions were thrown together to try to put the U.S. out in the lead,’ Cyrus Mody, a history-of-science professor at Rice University, in Houston, says. ‘People were talking about floating trains and infinite transmission lines within the next couple of years.’ But, in three decades of struggle, almost no one has managed to turn the brittle ceramics into a substance that can survive everyday use.