A new level of sensitivity; this was the promise of researchers and early-adopters of monomolecular materials when it came to graphene sensors. Using graphene as a sensor – whether as an active sensing material, a substrate, or a transistor – would enable previously unfathomable levels of versatility and ultra-sensitivity in a virtually limitless range of applications. Now, sixteen years after this novel single-layer carbon allotrope was first isolated, graphene-based sensors are beginning to deliver on that promise.
This article functions as Grolltex’s guide to graphene sensors, covering a range of applications, developments, and the future market outlook of graphene as a sensor material.
Before defining what a graphene sensor is, it is worth delving into the extremely segmented world of sensor types to gain some perspective of the market scope.
The global sensor market intersects practically every other industry on the planet, and this level of saturation is expected to grow in the future. Driven by increasing internet of things (IoT) requirements, unprecedented growth in electronics sectors, broader application of sensors in emerging markets (automation industry, wearables, biosensing, etc.), and general advances in sensing technologies, the global sensor market is expected to reach a value of $241 billion by 2022.
This extraordinary valuation covers an array of technologies and device types, including:
Graphene can theoretically intersect with any of these sub-techniques as a supplementary material. Yet the applicability of graphene sensors has been hindered by supply chain immaturity and poor repeatability – essential for success in sensor manufacturing. The comparative novelty of graphene, and the lack of an established front-running method of producing single-layer sheets and flakes, or nanoplatelets, has inhibited the functionalization of graphene sensors.
Now, with greater industry alignment and an increasing number of precision manufacturing processes available, a consistent supply of single layer graphene material for sensors can be established. Sensor manufacturers can subsequently experiment with integrating graphene into their systems as a sensing material or as a supplementing biological/thermal/electrical component.
Graphene has many novel properties that make it uniquely suited for a wide range of applications. The two principal characteristics that make monolayer graphene well suited for sensing are that it is highly electrically conductive, meaning any signal can be transmitted quickly, in a robust fashion, and that since graphene is very thin, more of the material is available for sensing than other more dense materials – the entirety of the graphene sheet is actively sensing. Further, the material is biocompatible, allowing graphene sensors to immobilize biomolecules via physisorption to facilitate electrochemical detection. Graphene has exceptional physical flexibility, enabling its application in a wide range of configurations. It also boasts outstanding optical transparency enabling baseline readings with existing optical measurement methods.
For more information on the potential applications of graphene in sensing elements, read our previous blog post Single-Layer Graphene as a Sensor.
Grolltex is a specialist manufacturer of two-dimensional materials based on graphene and hexagonal boron nitride (hBN). We generate single layer graphene sheets for transfer on to a wide range of application areas. Our unique chemical vapor deposition (CVD) generated materials are uniquely suited to emerge graphene sensors.
Check back here in the future for further news and developments in the graphene sensor market. Or, if you would like to discuss an order for your application, simply contact a member of the Grolltex team today.