VTOL — When will we be able to drive our own flying cars?

The short answer is this 2019. Although this depends on what is your idea of a flying car.

In 2019, you can already buy a flying car. The Terrafugia Transition is a flying car combination of a car with wings which is fuelled with normal gasoline. The limitations of this new concept are that you still need a pilot licence and an airport to fly, so maybe is not as convenient as what you have in mind.

The futuristic idea of having our own flying car parked in front of our door that we all dreamed of is called VTOL vehicle.

Basic concepts

VTOL stands for vertical take-off and landing. There are two approaches for this technology, Rotorcraft and powered-lift vehicles.

Rotorcraft are those that generate the lift-power by spinning rotor blades, such as helicopters, quadcopters and gyrocopters.

Power-lift vehicles are those that take off vertically but converts to fixed-wing lift in the horizontal fly. Some examples are convertiplanes, tail-sitters, vectored thrust, lift jets and lift fans.

Let us take a look at the projects under development, to get an idea of what options we will have in the next years.

VTOL vehicle projects

All VTOL vehicles project are designed with the idea to be air taxis, and not to be personal vehicles.


The Volocopter is a dronelike rotorcraft powered by 18 electric propellers with room for two passengers. It is designed for inner-city transport covering flight distances of up to 30km at speeds of up to 100km/h. It has been already proven to fly safely, quietly and comfortably in demonstration flights in Dubai and Las Vegas. Now, the company is ready to establish the first commercial air taxi routes. Volocopter recently obtained investment from Intel and Daimler.


The Lilium jet is an all-electric VTOL light jet controlled by twelve flaps each fitted with three electric engines, each with a ducted fan. Therefore, the vehicle is lifted vertically by 36 small turbofan engines that are tilted horizontally to fly like an airplane. The current model can transport two passengers, and the company is working in a larger model with room for five passengers that can fly ranges of 300km at speeds up to 300km/h.

The jet is planned for commuting without emissions and noise pollution. Since is all electric, during fly the Lilium jet makes less noise than a motorbike and during take-off and landing the noise is similar to a truck. Furthermore, it fits in a standard landing pad which should make easier to accommodate them in the existing city infrastructures. The company, supported by ESA, initially targeted commercial operation for 2025, but recently announced that they could conceivably begin service far sooner.

Bell Nexus

The Bell Nexus is a power-lift vehicle that looks like an oversized drone. The aircraft is controlled by six ducted-articulated-fans which are vertically oriented during taking off an landing and horizontally oriented for faster air travelling. The goal of Nexus is to transport four passengers plus the pilot up to a range of 250 km in one hour.

The company, Bell Aerospace, has already experience developing VTOL aircraft like the tilt-rotor flyer V-22 Osprey, developed in conjunction with Boeing. They expect to begin flight-testing by 2023 and commence commercial operations shortly thereafter. This is the main bet of Uber Air.


The Airbus Vahana is another electric-powered VTOL vehicle, in this case, controlled by eight propellers. The vehicle is self-piloted an initially designed for 1 passenger, although there is second design under development for two passengers.

The first full-scale model has already been tested in rotorcraft mode and currently are testing the transitions to forward flight. Airbus targets 2020 for a production-ready version of the aircraft.

Other projects in the pipeline

Those are just some of the most advanced and better-funded VTOL projects, but there are more than 50 companies working in some sort of flying vehicle and the list keeps growing. Some examples of these projects are the Cora, Ehang, AeroMobil, SureFly, Terrafugia’s TF-X, Electrafly, Joby, Switchblade, etc

Outstanding challenges

All these new prototypes show that the idea of flying cars is no longer a science fiction dream but is close to becoming reality. However, the adoption of flying cars still faces major regulatory roadblocks.

The legal hurdles related to small flying vehicles are probably a greater challenge than the technological ones. For this reason, for now, only flying taxis is the viable option. As we become familiar with having VTOLs flying over our cities, perhaps then, we can begin to imagine how we can allow ourselves to drive our own flying vehicles.


Now it is your turn.

  • Have you ever dreamt of having a flying car?
  • What do you think of the idea of having VTOLs flying over our cities?
  • Do you think it is a good solution for our urban mobility problems?

Leave us your opinion in the comments.

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3D Bioprinting — Could we ever 3D print a fully compatible organ and transplant it?

Key facts about 3D Bioprinting

  • 3D bioprinting consists of adapting the 3D printing technology to print tissue-mimicking constructs.
  • What drives this technology is to print human tissues and organs that can be used to replace our damaged ones.
  • The main problem at the moment is to ensure that these bioconstructions remain alive and functional once printed.


Bioprinting is the merge of two technologies: 3d printing and cell biology. This fast-growing emerging technology has open many possibilities in the field of regenerative medicine and tissue engineering.

This variation of the 3D printing technology uses bio-inks to create biological structures. The main purpose of this technology is to combine cells, growth factors, and biomaterials to fabricate tissue-like constructs that can later be used for clinical and biomedical applications.

A broad range of biomaterials has already been printed. The key is bio-inks.

Bio-inks are mainly cells embedded in a gel-like scaffold. This substrate, which may be organic or synthetic in nature, provides support for the cells to adhere and grow.

How works?

In general terms, bioprinting work very similar to the normal 3D printing. It consists of three steps, pre-processing, printing and post-processing.

First, the desired structure is defined in a digital model. Normally, the geometry to be bioprinted is reconstructed from computer tomographies or magnetic resonance images (MRI).

Second, the object is printed by depositing layers of biomaterial following the digital model.

Third, post-processing usually involves placing the bioprint in a special chamber so that the cells can mature properly and become a functional tissue. This step is, in fact, the main difference from normal 3D printing. Bioprints are living structures, which means that cells need a proper environment with oxygen, nutrients and space for waste disposal.

Printing techniques

Currently, there are several techniques to deposit these cell-rich bio-inks. Each technique is more appropriate for certain types of biomaterials than for others.

Inkjet bioprinting acts similarly to a common office inkjet printer. The bio-ink is pushed through nozzles in a continuous or drop-on-demand manner. The amount of bio-ink deposited in the substrate is controlled by heat or vibration. These bioprinters are more affordable than other techniques but are limited to low-viscosity bio-inks.

Extrusion bioprinting uses pressure to force the biomaterial to flow out of a nozzle. This technique has two advantages. First, bio-inks of different viscosities can be printed by adjusting the pressure, which means that highly viscous hydrogels can be printed without the need for high temperatures. Second, the technique can likely be scaled up for manufacturing, although may not be as precise as other techniques.

Microvalve bioprinting has similarities with the inkjet and extrusion techniques. Biomaterial stored under constant pneumatic pressure is delivered in droplets by the opening and closing of a mechanically, electrically or magnetically controlled microvalve. The printing process can be continuous or drop by drop and works well with low viscosity bio-inks.

Laser-assisted bioprinting moves cells from a solution onto a surface with the help of a laser. The laser heats a specific part of the solution creating a bubble that guides cells towards the surface. This technique is very precise and can be used for highly viscous biomaterials. The problem is that the heat from the laser may damage the cells. Furthermore, the technique is difficult to scale up to print large quantities thus has not been explored extensively as a biofabrication approach.

Tissue fragment bioprinting leverage the intrinsic capacity of closely spaced tissue fragments to fuse together, known as tissue fluidity. Therefore, tissue fragments containing several thousand cells are deposited in close spatial arrays so that they self-assemble.

Here, only the most relevant techniques are mentioned, but in this fast-growing field, new approaches are continuously being tested.

Potential applications

Printing tissues and organs has more applications than you can imagine at first glance.


With the increase in life expectancy and raise in chronic illnesses, exist an enormous gap between organ demand and supply.

One of the promising applications of this technology is the ability to 3D print tissues and organs to replace our damaged ones. The advantage of this method is that it reduces the risk of rejection since the transplantable bioprinted organ will be created form our own cells.

For now, relatively homogenous tissues like cartilage, skin, blood vessels, vagina, urine tubes and bladder have been bioprinted and transplanted in the lab or in clinical trials, but as the technology matures more complex organs are expected to be manufactured.

Also, the living bioprinted materials can be used in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine not only to replace damaged tissues but also to improve biological functions, as is the case with CRISPR technology.

Drug discovery and product testing

Another potential use of bioprinted living materials is in the area of medical testing and drug discovery.

Bioprinted tissues simulate their native microenvironments, such as cell type and tissue microstructure. Thus, bioprints are a good alternative for in-vitro model testing for preclinical test of drugs and cosmetics.

It is foreseeable that this application will be used on a commercial scale prior to organ transplantation as the requirements are lower than the characteristics necessary for its use in the human body.

Skin bioprinting is one of the most promising examples of bioprinting for several applications, such as the development of topical drugs, wound healing studies, and dermal toxicology research.

History and future

Bioprinting technology is the result of advances in many fields, from computing to printing and cell biology. It is difficult to determine a specific date for the birth of this technology although it would be relevant to highlight two important basic advances for this technology: the discovery of stem cells in 1978 and the invention of the 3D printer in 1984.

During the 1990s, medical researchers began to show interest in the idea of printing biological structures.

In 1999, the first lab-grown organ was implanted. The bladder cells were grown on a synthetic scaffold.

Since then, the medical field has begun to develop the bioprinting technology thanks to the advances in 3D printing and cell biology.


There is a huge gap between the demand and the supply of organs for transplantation. This technology is hope for solving this problem. The goal is to print the organs and transplant them in a few hours, without rejection from the body. These printed organs will be created from the same cells of the body of the person being transplanted, matching the exact size, specifications and requirements of each individual patient.

At present, fully functional 3D bioprinted complex internal organs are not feasible, but at the rate of current progress in the field, it could be possible in 10 years.


3D bioprinting opens new avenues in the field of personalized medicine. It is a promising technology that can finish the problems of finding a compatible donor. There are no surgical challenges, only technological ones.

Real organs

One thing is to print a tissue structure with the shape of an organ and other is make the organ fully functional. Organs are quite complex structures, they have multiple cell types, blood vessels, nerves, filtration system, and they are strong and durable.

For now, researchers have been able to bioprint many different tissues and organs, but not so many survive more than a few days. There is an urgent need to developed innovative solutions for the vascular networks that provide cells with nutrients and oxygen to grow and develop.

Bioprinting techniques and bio-inks

The current bioprinting techniques have still many limitations. Only certain types of bio-inks can be printed with a limited range of viscosities and limited precision.

In addition, the printing process has the potential to damage cells, as they only thrive within a narrow range of temperature, pressure and oxygen level.

This is a very young technology in rapid development. In the coming years, we will see how all these problems are solved.

4D bioprinting

The next step in this field is to print tissue with the ability to respond to stimuli, for example, heat or pressure, know as 4D bioprinting.

The changes can be in shape, such as deforming, twisting or growing or in function, such as cell differentiation or change in cell polarity.

This is the future indeed. Now, the 3D bioprinted objects are very basic, but we are starting to create more sophisticated multimaterial, multimodal biostructures.


Now it is your turn.

  • Would you accept a 3D bioprinted transplant?
  • What do you think about bioprinting tissues and organs for drug testing?

Leave us your opinion in the comments.

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  1. Biofabrication: an overview of the approaches used for printing of living cells — Scientific study
  2. 3D bioprinting of tissues and organs for regenerative medicine — Scientific study
  3. 3D bioprinting of organs — Youtube video

Industry 4.0 — Are you ready for the next industrial revolution?

Key facts about Industry 4.0

  • Industry 4.0 is the nickname for the fourth industrial revolution.
  • It consists of providing intelligence to the factories by interconnecting all the agents, sharing data in real time and processing information by artificial intelligence.
  • Such functionality depends on the development of several new technologies.


Industry 4.0 is a name used to refer to the next industrial revolution. The merge of the digital and the physical workflows in an automated interconnected smart production.

Briefly, industrial revolutions coincidence with a set of technological advances.

The first industrial revolution took place when we moved from agriculture to industry because of mechanization, steam and waterpower.

The second industrial revolution was the replacement of steam for electricity and mass production.

The third one, the digital revolution, was the automation of the production with robots and computers.

The fourth industrial revolution, industry 4.0, or smart factory is considered the current trend of automation and data exchange in the manufacturing context. A new level of organization and control over the entire value chain of the life cycle of products.

What does this mean?

Smart factory as the own name suggests means providing intelligence to the entire manufacturing system.

For that, it is necessary to collect data from each agent in the manufacturing chain. Send this data to a centralised intelligence. Analyse this data together to optimize the whole process and send the information back to each agent in real time.

This new integrated manufacturing ecosystem is possible thanks to the development of technologies such as cyber-physical systems, the internet of things, cloud computing, big data and cognitive computing.

Principles and capabilities

The new era of manufacturing allows a flexible and efficient production that adapts to the specific requirements of each order, increasing cost and time efficiency and improving product quality.

Therefore, the principles of Industry 4.0 are interoperability, virtualization, decentralization, real-time capability, service orientation, and modularity.

This means the ability of machines, devices, sensors, and people to connect and communicate with each other. The ability to provide operators with useful information. The ability of assistance systems to support humans by aggregating and visualizing information comprehensively. And, the ability of cyber-physical systems to make decisions on their own and to perform their tasks as autonomously as possible.

Potential applications

The ground idea of making manufacturing processes smart by collecting, sharing and processing data to return useful information can be applied to any system.

Smart factory

The driving purpose of Industry 4.0 is to make factories more intelligent, flexible, and dynamic by equipping manufacturing systems with sensors, actors, and autonomous systems. Accordingly, machines and equipment will achieve high levels of self-optimization and automation.

Those principles can be also applied to processes such as logistics, transport or construction to mention a few.

Smart product

Smart products integrate two main advantages, the customization of products at a mass scale and the communication of the product itself with the physical agents.

In an Industry 4.0 ecosystem, users can customize products via web in the moment of the purchase. The information is transmitted to the industrial cloud and shared with the manufacturing line. The unique identification of the product, Internet of things, allows the manufacturer to apply the customization.

But smart products can describe not only their properties but also their status and life-cycle, past and future, with the capacity to interact with physical entities without human supervision.

Besides, due to the autonomous decision-making mechanism of the manufacturing chain in that ecosystem, the agents will optimize the production process to produce the product efficiently.

Smart city

When all these technologies become a reality, this technological ecosystem may be applied to a city where all the dynamic factors of the city function efficiently.

Smart economy, smart mobility, smart environment, smart people, smart living, and smart governance.

A place where everything is interconnected and more efficiently organized. Smart city’s goal is to ensure the sustainability of cities and improve the quality of life.

History and future

The term Industry 4.0 was announced at the Hanover International Fair in 2011, has its origin in a project of the high-tech strategy of the German government, which promotes the computerization of manufacturing.

Industry 4.0 now encompasses a group of technologies such as the internet of things, cyber-physical systems, information and communications technology, enterprise architecture, and enterprise integration.

The goal of this revolution is to apply the latest technologies to improve products and processes, to provide mass customization in a flexible, automatic and intelligent manufacturing environment.


Industry 4.0 is a revolution with large implications on supply chains, business models and business processes and will not happen overnight. There are several factors that play an important role in the path of this transition.

Disruptive developments are always accompanied by hype and overenthusiasm. Many companies and organizations are exposed to the dilemma of starting too early and making fatal errors or starting too late and losing competitiveness.


The fear to start too early is real since the technologies necessary for the implementation of Industry 4.0 are still under development.

Things like information technology and data security issues, reliability and stability of machine-to-machine communication, protection of industrial know-how and other issues like loss of many jobs to automatic IT-controlled processes or insufficient qualification of employees are some of the challenges to face.


The path of this revolution will be determined by the evolution and development of all the technologies involved, the main pillars: 1) big data and analytics, 2) autonomous robots, 3) simulations, 4) systems integration, 5) the industrial internet of things, 6) cyber-security and cyber-physical systems, 7) cloud services, 8) additive manufacturing, 9) augmented reality.

The challenges come from the problems of the implementation of each of these pillars and the new paradigm they create together as Industry 4.0.

Globalization 4.0

Finally, the World Economic Forum recently said in Davos that we are moving into a new phase of globalization.

Thanks to technology, everything is now easily scalable on a global level.

This new phase was called globalization 4.0. Are you ready?


Now it is your turn.

  • Have you already heard about Industry 4.0?
  • What will we do with the people who cannot adapt to this new paradigm?
  • What would you do about the dichotomy of starting too early / starting too late? Which would be worse?

Leave us your opinion in the comments.

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  1. Industry 4.0 A glimpse — Scientific study
  2. Potentials for Creating Smart Products — Scientific study
  3. What is the Fourth Industrial Revolution?  — Youtube video

CRISPR — Is there any good reason to edit an organism’s DNA?

Key facts about CRISPR

  • CRISPR is a cost-effective technology to edit the organism’s DNA easier than ever before.
  • It was adapted from a natural bacteria defence system.
  • The gene drives alternative makes possible to pass edited genes to offspring.


CRISPR is a technology that allows altering DNA sequences and modify gene function faster, easier, cheaper and more precise than previous genome editing methods.

DNA is a molecule which carries the instructions of how a living organism should growth, develop, function and reproduce. DNA functions as a storage device of biological information and RNA function as a reader that decode this information. The technology to modify these molecules is called genome editing.

There were several recognised genome editing methods before, but CRISPR has revolutionized the field. The reason for such a revolution is its simplicity, versatility and precision. CRISPR stands for “clusters of regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats”. The key words here are “interspaced” and “repeats”.

How works

The term CRISPR was used for the first time in 1990 to refer to unknown repeating sequences observed in different bacteria DNA. Later on, scientists found out that indeed these sequences are part of the bacteria immune system. When bacteria defeat a virus after a viral infection, they chop the virus DNA and store it in their own bacteria genome in CRISPR spaces.

The bacteria use these pieces of information to defend themselves from future viral attacks.  Whenever a new viral infection occurs, the bacteria produce an enzyme (Cas9) that check if the new attack match with the pieces of RNA viruses already stored. When the enzyme finds a match neutralize the virus by destroying that part of the genetic code.

Now scientists have figured out how all these mechanisms are triggered, and we can engineer the whole process to edit any genome sequence. In short, the CRISPR technology works like a pair of molecular scissors where only two components are needed: a guide RNA and the Cas9 protein. First, a specific gene is target base on RNA-DNA base pairing. Second, the gene is cut through the enzyme activity (Cas9). Third, a new sequence of engineered DNA can be added by using the cell’s own DNA repair machinery.

In that way, pieces of genetic material can be added, altered or deleted, easier than never before. With the current levels of efficiency, the use of gene editing methods for therapeutic use is a realistic future scenario.

Potential applications

CRISPR is a very young technology. For now, it has been used only in research labs. However, it opens so many possibilities that many pharmaceutical and biotech companies are investing in this technology. There are many potential applications of this technology, but all of them fall in three main branches: agriculture, industrial biotechnology and human health.

The most direct application of CRISPR-technology is to study the genes function. Thanks to the human genome project, since 2003, we have identified all the genes in the human DNA, but we do not know yet which is the function of each of them. Since CRISPR is very precise, scientists can rapidly delete individual genes and analyse which traits are affected.


Another application within reach is to improve crops. With a technology like CRISPR, it is possible to make fruit more tasty and nutritious. But not only that, it is also potently possible to remove the allergens from peanuts or improve drought tolerance. Even create hornless dairy cows.


Scientists are also working on correcting genetic defects and stopping genetic diseases. Although there is still a long way before seeing the first tests in humans, several research projects are seeking to erase genetic diseases like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or HIV. In addition, CRISPR technology is a powerful tool to develop new drugs in a faster and cheaper way.


Finally, this technology could be used to modify entire species by using gene drives. These are genetic systems, which increase the chances of a particular gene passing on from parent to offspring. In this way, an altered gene can be spread through entire populations very fast. This is interesting for example, to make mosquitos more resistant to the malaria parasite, preventing its transmission to humans, to eradicate invasive species or to reverse pesticide and herbicide resistance.

History and future

In 1987, a group of researchers reported the existence of repeated sequences of DNA without purpose known in a specific type of bacteria. In 1990, the same sequences were observed in very different bacteria and the sequences were named as CRISPR. Following investigations, found that these sequences were virus DNA, and they formed part of the bacteria immune system.

By 2011, scientists puzzle how all this immune system works and in the following year, the final breakthrough was reached. Scientists discovered how to engineer all this bacteria defence process to edit any genome at any place they wanted. Although the understanding of the whole mechanism was conducted by separate research groups, 2012 is considered the official year of discovery of this technology as a genome-editing tool.

Since then, research using this technology has exploded to optimize it and make it more efficient and accurate. Much research is still needed to understand the full implications of this technology in more complex organisms.

It is foreseeable to see the first applications on agricultural products although the biggest challenges will be to handle this technology to one day been able to edit the human genome.


During the past decade, technological breakthroughs in genome editing have moved the primary research goal in biotechnology from treatment to modification and cure, bringing gene therapy and precision medicine into a new era. CRISPR is easier, faster and about four times more cost-effective than the previous best genome-editing tool, known as TALENs. That has accelerated the pace of scientific research in this field. However, there are still many challenges to deal with and new ones have arisen.


So far, scientists have performed most of the genome editing research on cells and animal models and have demonstrated that the technology can be effective in correcting genetic defects. But there are several hurdles before to start safe clinical trials on humans. CRISPR has an accuracy of about 70%. That means that there is a 30% probability of unintentional modifications of non-targeted genes. This can lead to the introduction of unintended mutations like the creation of a new disease. That is why many experts argue that experiments in humans are premature.

Gene drives and germline editing

Another uncontrolled potential risk is the use of gene drives, in the case of spreading beyond the target population passing to other organisms through crossbreeding. Furthermore, the use of this technology in mass rise problems that go beyond the biology, political and governance problems.

A variant of the gene drives is the germline editing, which consists in modify genetically human embryos and reproductive cells such as sperm and eggs. Such application will raise problems in off-target effects and unintended consequences for future generations, but also ethical and legal challenges. To address these concerns, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine have published a report with guidelines and recommendations for germline editing.

The ethical concerns go beyond the technological challenges, but in any case open interesting debates about if we should make changes that could fundamentally affect future generations without having their consent, or the opposite case, if it is ethical to not modify the genes to cure potential diseases of future generation even when it is in our hand.


Now it is your turn.

  • What do you think about the idea of editing the DNA of an organism?
  • How far do you think we should go with this technology? Only to cure genetic diseases or there is no threshold for human enhancement, for example, to design taller and smarter humans?

Leave us your opinion in the comments.

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  1. History of CRISPR — Scientific study
  2. Applications of CRISPR technology — Scientific study
  3. Guidelines and recommendations for clinical trials for genome editing of the human germline — Report
  4. Human Genome Project — Website
  5. TALENs — Scientific study

Graphene — When will we be able to buy Graphene products?

Key facts about graphene

  • Graphene is a human-made material with applications in almost every field.
  • It is the thinnest material known, only one atom thick.
  • It is ultralight, super strong, flexible, transparent, biodegradable and highly conductor.


Since graphene was discovered has attracted the attention of all industries due to its marvellous properties and uncountable applications.

Graphene is a combination of carbon atoms, like coal, graphite, and diamond. What makes the graphene so special is that it comprise only one-atom-layer thickness arranged in a perfect hexagonal lattice pattern. It is a single layer of carbon atoms tightly bounded, a two-dimensional structure with no third dimension. It is, therefore, the thinnest material ever created by man.


This material has many properties. Due to its crystalline structure and super strong bonds, it is 200x stronger than steel of the same thickness. It can be stretched up to 25%, conduct electricity 250x better than silicon at room temperature and heat ten times better than copper.

Because it is only one atom thick, this material is super light 2250Kg/m3 vs 7700kg/m3 steel. It has also demonstrated high biocompatibility, potentially highly renewable since carbon is the fourth most abundant element in the universe and it is almost completely impermeable.


The main way to produce graphene is by a technique called exfoliation. This technique consists in extracting thin layers of graphite by sticking adhesive tape on bulk graphite and peel it off. This process is repeated, obtaining in each interaction graphite slices with fewer layers until only a single-atom-thick mesh of carbon remains.

This technique is used for R&D applications in the lab, but it is not practical for large-scale production. Constantly, new techniques are developed to produce graphene at a greater scale, but still, the purest and of the highest quality graphene is produced by exfoliation.

The two-dimensional structure of the graphene makes possible to create new materials by using graphene as scaffold combining with other compounds. These engineering materials might potentially open even more applications.

Potential applications

Due to its list of properties, graphene has many potential applications, which we will start to see after overcoming all its challenge.

Energy and electronics

Graphene is a promising material for energy storage solutions. Graphene-batteries will be more efficient than the traditional lithium due to no chemical reaction is needed, making them more durable and efficient.

Graphene is also a promising replacement from silicon electronics, its high conductivity together with being thinner and smaller than any other compound makes possible to design smaller and better microprocessors. Especially for CPUs since graphene heat dissipation is 25 times more powerful than silicon.

Because graphene is transparent and flexible, it is a good candidate for flexible screens and optical electronics in general, replacing the current fragile and expensive Indium-Tin-Oxide in touchscreens. These properties can also be exploited to develop more efficient photovoltaic cells (solar panels).

Nanoscale applications

There are also options for ultrafiltration applications. Graphene allows water to pass through it, but is, at the same time, almost completely impermeable to liquids and gases. This second characteristic makes the graphene a good alternative for future pipelines and ultra-sensible gas sensors.

Other areas of research are in the biomedical engineering field to develop wearable sensors of all kinds or even due to its nanoscale to drug development or sequencing DNA.

Finally, as already stated, graphene opens up new possibilities to produce any composite material that has to be strong and light, such as body armours or planes.

History and future

Graphene has been known theoretically for many years. The breakthrough was in 2004 when graphene was isolated for the first time by accident. Research at the University of Manchester sought to isolate pure graphite for its potential as a transistor. They extracted thin layers of graphite by means of exfoliation technique and attached these layers to a silicon substrate with electrodes to create and transistor.

Currently, some graphene-enhanced products have started to appear commercially, but full graphene products are still to come. First applications will probably be related to its electrical conductivity for super-efficient batteries. Applications related to its light and strong mechanical properties will be also expected in the near future. However, bioapplications still have a long way to go before we see them.


In the recent years, graphene has become very popular in the research world and also for the general public, sold as the thinnest, the strongest, the most electrically and thermally conductive, renewable and biocompatible material at the same time. It has been promised as a new revolution as it was plastic. However, there are still many technological challenges to overcome.

Production at large scale

We still do not know how to produce graphene at large scales. Until now the largest sheet of graphene that scientist has been able to produce has been the size of a credit card by exfoliation. Other methods to manufacture graphene are under development, but the quality of the graphene produced is lower.

Basically, the quality of the graphene is based on the number of layers. When graphene is layered, it loses many of its properties, including flexibility and high conductivity. Considering that a graphite crystal of 1 millimetre thick is made of 3 million graphene layers is easy to understand how difficult is to isolate one pure layer of graphene.

However, this balance of purity and scale is similar to the silicon production faced years ago, and due to its fascinating properties, research in the mass-production of graphene is heavily invested.

Superconductor ≠ semiconductor

Another critical point necessary to resolve is that graphene is a superconductor, but it is not a semiconductor. This is important to differentiate since the base of electronics is the ability to change its conductivity to generate zeros and ones. As long as we cannot completely switch off the graphene, this material will not be a serious candidate to overcome silicon.


All bio-applications will probably be the furthest from becoming a reality if they come true at all. Research on the potential toxicity of the graphene is still ongoing, results are contradictory. Although there is room for hope, we can always synthesize new graphite derivatives with better biocompatibility than pure graphene.

Graphene is too good to do not research further. A universe of graphene applications is waiting to be discovered.


Now it is your turn.

  • What application do you think will reach first the mass-market?
  • Do you think graphene will be as revolutionary as plastic was?
  • How long will we wait until seeing objects made of graphene?

Leave us your opinion in the comments.

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  1. Why graphene hasn’t taken over the world…yet — Youtube video
  2. State of the art of graphene products — Website
  3. Review of the quality of the current graphene production — Scientific study
  4. Review of the biocompatibility and biomedical applications of the graphene — Scientific study
  5. Graphene: The Superstrong, Superthin, and Superversatile Material That Will Revolutionize the World — Book
  6. The Graphene Revolution — Book