Quite a while ago, I ordered a roll of BlackMagic 3D which is a PLA-graphene blended filament. It’s manufactured by Graphene Lab Inc in the USA. So what did I print? Yep, it’s a model of the structure of graphene itself! For those of you who haven’t looked into graphene, it’s a remarkable material, it’s a hexagonal lattice of carbon atoms and as it’s only one atom thick, it’s the first 2D material ever created. Graphene has been touted as the new “wonder material”. Here’s a few of its properties:
200 times stronger than steel weight for weight
1 million times thinner than a human hair
The most conductive material at room temperature (better than silver, gold or copper)
Potentially, graphene fibre will supplant carbon fibre in many composite structures with the potential to be 2000% stronger, which is pretty crazy when you think about it!
The material I printed with is a blend of PLA (polylactic acid) plastic and graphene nanotubes, it has a resistivity of 0.6 ohms per centimetre in the form of 1.75mm diameter filament.
I’ve chosen to test the conductivity of the print I made by putting it in circuit with an LED. The LED module is set up to run at 3.7 volts but I’m feeding it with 12 volts. To drop the voltage, I’m using my print.
And there it is! The LED is operating within it’s voltage range thanks to the graphene print acting as a resistor. According to the manufacturer, the graphene should have also increased the relative strength of the print compared to straight PLA. I’ll have to dream up an experiment to test that another time. Until then, I can see that it would be entirely possible to use graphene as a printed circuit with components either wrapped or clinched onto the print (you cant solder to PLA!)