Within a year, graphene electronic papers (e-papers) will be put on the market. Developed by China’s Guangzhou OED Technologies in conjunction with a Chongqing company, graphene e-papers are stronger, lighter, and more flexible than OED’s foremost e-paper, O-paper, and they also make for brighter displays.
Graphene itself is very thin – a single layer is 0.335 nanometres thick – yet 150 times stronger than the equivalent weight of steel. It can also stretch 120% its own length and conduct heat and electricity even though it is made of carbon.
Because of these properties, graphene can be used to make hard or flexible displays for devices like e-readers or wearable smart watches.
E-papers have been in production since 2014, proving to be thinner and more bendable compared to liquid crystal displays. They are also energy efficient because they only use energy when their display changes. Graphene e-papers are a step-up in their ongoing production.
Graphene will replace indium as the leading e-paper material because it is cheaper to mass produce.
Since graphene e-papers are brighter and energy efficient, they will be used for all kinds of digital signage, like traffic signs or for schools, offices, and the like. They can even be incorporated with plastic to create shatterproof smartphones so thin they can be folded and slipped into your pocket.
As technology heads towards the use of this efficient innovation, it should be considered whether or not the production of graphene e-papers would be good for the environment. Graphene is made from carbon, a non-renewable resource that is already depleting. As such, producing graphene e-papers may be unsustainable. They may be an exciting step forward, but what will replace them when global carbon resources have run out?