At The Trend Curve we continually track the emergence of different materials along with our focus on trends in home furnishings. The more one can learn about possibilities for innovation and invention by creating with new materials, the more likely it is that finished-goods trends can be anticipated.
One materials trend that has been written up in scientific journals for some time—and for which two physicists received the Nobel Prize in 2010 for their ground-breaking experiments—is graphene. This one-atom-thick, carbon-based lattice is pretty small: 3 million sheets of it would only be 3 millimeters thick!
There are two properties of this material that are making manufacturers, designers and visionaries sit up and take notice though: Graphene has a breaking strength that is 200 times greater than steel and its electronic properties mean that it holds the promise of revolutionizing the manufacturing of electronics, computers, solar cells and anything that could potentially take advantage of these (and many other) sorts of properties.
The problem right now is we haven’t seen a breakthrough invention utilizing graphene. But one of the Nobel Prize in Physics winners, Dr Andre Geim, had this to say about what many are touting as a “miracle material”: “Graphene does not just have one application. It is not even one material. It is a huge range of materials. A good comparison would be to how plastics are used.”
We’ve read discussions about possible applications for home furnishings such as: wallpaper with embedded LEDs; lamps with their entire structure able to be lit; fabrics that conduct signal for pillows that also function as speakers; wall-sized displays (for photos, video, etc.); wall-board which would be plugged in so walls could “change color” by rotating a dial; and more.
Like any material not yet leveraged for a specific application, it is challenging to figure out if any of those sorts of applications are even possible, and which ones are a fool’s errand. That said, the mainstream media is beginning to write excitedly about the potential for graphene and it would be worth your time and attention to understand and learn more about it. We are.