Graphene is pretty simple stuff: it’s an allotrope of carbon that’s a sheet, one atom thick, of carbon atoms in a honeycomb lattice. When you use a pencil, you technically are rubbing off sheets of graphene onto paper; it’s that common.
It also happens to be a wonder material: thin, light, but in large sheets it’s as tough as steel. Oh, and according to MIT researchers, it happens to generate electricity when you hit it with light. Not fancy light, using some sort of unique process they invented. You leave it around in the sun, it generates current.
Basically, the light excites the electrons of the graphene, but the carbon itself doesn’t react. This is called a hot carrier response, and to give you an idea of what a big hairy deal this is, we’ve never seen this at room temperature before. It’s only happened by cooling stuff to absolute zero or blasting it with a laser.
So, yeah, freaking pencil lead has the potential to power us for centuries, or at least massively advance our design and application of…well…everything. Not too shabby.
[ via the pencil fans at Geekosystem ]