When we at Princeton Global do research, several themes lead us to interesting opportunities. Among them are:
- Interesting changes in technology that can lead to new markets.
- A change in a company’s leadership can lead to a change in corporate culture and an opportunity to thrive. And
- A major problem with a company that causes it to lose favor with the investing public resulting in compelling valuations for those who have patience.
The comments below are about an interesting “new” technology that is 20 years old and may be ready to break through to create interesting opportunities. In the future, we intend to provide updates on other backburner ideas such as CRISPR, battery technology, and Artificial Intelligence (AI), which may lead to investments in your portfolio. We would appreciate any comments or insights on these ideas!
- is the thinnest material known to man at one atom thick?
- is about 200 times stronger than steel?
- has a relationship with a scotch tape dispenser which then led to a Nobel Prize?
- is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity?
- has interesting light absorption abilities, which could lead to better solar cells?
- has filtration abilities that could lead to a breakthrough in seawater purification?
- could be used for significantly improved batteries (lighter, longer lasting, and faster charging)?
- is a potential product for enhanced touchscreens?
- is being used to make concrete stronger and less polluting?
It is Graphene.
Dubbed a “super material,” graphene’s long list of miraculous traits makes it seem almost magical, but it could have very real and drastic implications for the future of physics and engineering.
The simplest way to describe graphene is that it is a single, thin layer of graphite — the soft, flaky material used in pencil lead. Graphite is an allotrope of the element carbon, meaning it possesses the same atoms but is arranged differently, giving the material different properties. For example, diamond and graphite are forms of carbon, yet they have wildly different natures. Diamonds are incredibly strong, while graphite is brittle. Graphene’s atoms are arranged in a hexagonal arrangement.
Graphene was discovered in 2004 by Professors Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov at The University of Manchester. It was first produced when the professors used Scotch tape to peel graphene flakes from graphite. The discovery was so bizarre the scientific world was skeptical at first. The popular journal Nature even rejected their paper on the experiment twice. Eventually, their research was published, and in 2010 Geim and Novoselov were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery.
Graphene is the thinnest material known to man at one atom thick and incredibly strong – about 200 times stronger than steel. On top of that, graphene is an excellent conductor of heat and electricity and has interesting light absorption abilities. It is truly a material that could change the world, with unlimited potential for integration in many industries.
Let’s look at just one of graphene’s potential uses – water desalination.
As overpopulation continues to be one of the world’s most pressing environmental concerns, maintaining clean water supplies will become more important. Indeed, water scarcity afflicts more than a billion people worldwide. Graphene’s tight atomic bonds make it impermeable to nearly all gasses and liquids. Curiously, water molecules are an exception. Because water can evaporate through graphene while most other gases and liquids cannot, graphene is an exceptional tool for filtration. Graphene filters have been 100 to 1000 times more efficient than the best desalination filters today. In fact, Lockheed Martin recently developed a graphene filter called “Perforene,” which the company claims could revolutionize the desalination process.
Current desalination plants use reverse osmosis to filter salt out of seawater. Reverse osmosis uses pressure to move water through a membrane. To produce large amounts of drinkable water, the pressure involved requires enormous amounts of energy. A Lockheed Martin engineer claims their Perforene filters could reduce the energy requirements a hundred times less than other filters.
By now, you’re probably wondering where are the commercial products taking advantage of this super-material – a material that has been around for almost 20 years. The answer is progress is rarely as fast as hoped. To make vast amounts of graphene economically, several hurdles must be scaled. The quantity and quality of the research have been impressive, and many hurdles have been conquered. Strides towards cheap, mass-produced graphene have been great. For now, investment opportunities are limited, and we must settle for prototypes while preparing for a viable investment opportunity.