Even on their own, 3D printing technology and the supermaterial graphene have the potential to bring about the next industrial revolution. So imagine if it were possible to 3D print objects using graphene? It's pretty mind-boggling.
It’s already possible to make everything from guns to food to human body parts. If graphene proves workable as a 3D printable material, we could potentially add computers, solar panels, electronics, even cars and airplanes to the list.
Scientists are trying to find out if it's possible. New research into the properties of graphene as a material for 3D printing took a big step forward this month. American Graphite Technologies, the company spearheading the research project, called P-600, announced it received an project abstract and could start research within two weeks.
That may not sound like much of an advancement, but every baby step toward 3D printing graphene has futurists quivering with anticipation. Following the project abstract announcement, the company's stock shot up more than 15 percent. That's because if scientists can pull this off, the future could really be unrecognizable.
Graphene is like a material with heroic powers. Tougher than diamonds! More conductive than copper! Three hundred times stronger than steel! It's a one-atom-thick, 2D substance made of pure carbon. It's the strongest and lightest substance yet discovered, and so flexible you can roll it up.
A mounting crop of research shows what graphene could make possible. Imagine: gadgets that can fully charge in five minutes, a filter that makes salt water drinkable, computers 1,000 times faster than they are now and more energy-efficient, supercapacitors that make batteries obsolete, unbreakable touchscreens, solar-powered gadgets, and bionic limbs that people can learn how to use again.
Now imagine all that printed from your living room. Here's how the blog 3D Printer put it: "Complex electronics, unbreakable frames and brackets, and even sources of renewable energy could be printed in graphene. Hell, since carbon is floating around us, it may be possible for a 3D printer to pull graphene literally out of thin air."
Lately 3D printing might be the only thing as hyped as the supermaterial. The technology is advancing fast, the market is expected to grow to $5.2 Billion by 2020. It seems everyday there's a new thing that can be 3D printed: This week it was rocket engine components and liquid metal. Is graphene next?
Both emerging technologies are still in their early days, and the combination of the two is just now starting to be researched. But it's not unreasonable to imagine a time when it'll be possible to print out an unbreakable, solar-powered, hyperfast smartphone that you can roll up and stick behind your ear, without having to leave your living room.