Last year, Andre Geim andKonstantin Novoselov, two scientists/professors at the University ofManchester, were awarded the Nobel prize for physics for their work inachieving the creation of graphene. This?miracle material? is simply a one atom thick flake of graphite, but at thisnanoscale, graphite takes on exciting properties. Graphene is the strongestmaterial, 200 times stronger than steel, and it is incredibly conductive. It isalso very thin. Three million sheets of graphene stacked is just one millimeterhigh. These properties make graphene highly suited for use in the manufactureof electronic devices, and various companies are currently working onresearching and developing electronic devices that make use of this fantasticmaterial.

Oneexample of a potential use of graphene in electronic devices is withtouchscreen technology. Currently touchscreens use increasingly scarcerare-earth minerals. However, graphene, a highly abundant material, may allowmanufacturers to revolutionize the touchscreen. Plastic containing just 1% ofgraphene would be highly conductive but still remain transparent, which shouldprovide a better alternative to manufacturers than the current touchscreentechnology. The great news for consumers is that it should lead to thinner andcheaper mobile devices.

However,the unpredictability of how materials behave at the nanoscale, especiallynatural materials such as graphite and graphene which contain carbon molecules,means that the question of toxicity will arise. There is no research yet onwhether graphene is harmful. It is hard to imagine how graphene would enter thehuman body once integrated into a matrix for use in electronic products.However, a legitimate potential area of concern could be during the manufacturingor product disposal processes. As with all new forms of nanotechnology,regulators are in the early stages of creating regulations to handle emergingnanotechnology products. They must tread carefully in weighing the risks versusthe potential gains in technology. Graphene has the potential to revolutionizethe electronics industry, and it would be a shame if unnecessarily stringentregulations stifled its benefical uses.