By Patrick van den Bossche, President of Realty Executives International. Originally published in inman.com.
We are in an era where sustainability, energy savings, solar options, innovations, engineering and smart home tech knowledge are all extremely important to consumers, business leaders and employees trying to make a difference in the world. In 2018 alone, the U.S. spent $19.8 billion on smart home technology. I predict a new material called graphene will revolutionize the smart home industry and become a key factor in smart home technology advancements and innovations.
Although there have been attempts to study graphene since the mid-1800s, it wasn’t until 2004 when scientists discovered and isolated a single atomic layer of carbon for the first time. Since then, research has skyrocketed, and graphene is now considered to be the strongest substance known to science and might be one of the world’s most useful “wonder” materials.
Graphene forms a nearly transparent, flexible sheet about one atom thick (which, to put in perspective, is one million times smaller than the diameter of a single human hair). It is 200 times stronger than steel yet six times lighter. It is a conductor of electrical and thermal energy, and it is eco-friendly and sustainable, with unlimited possibilities to create the perfect smart home (and more).
Concrete is the most common building material, along with steel, but greenhouse gas emissions from concrete and cement-making remain high. Cement-making accounts for 6 percent of global carbon emissions.
Use of graphene, when incorporated into concrete and cement, makes for a stronger, more water-resistant composite material that could reduce emissions. This material can be used directly on building sites, enabling the construction of strong and durable buildings using less concrete and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This process reduces roughly half the amount of materials used to make concrete, all at a lower cost.
Imagine being able to paint your house with a special coating that changes color when it senses that the underlying structure is in need of repairs. Researchers have created a smart graphene coating that indicates breaks and fractures by changing color. This could revolutionize the home inspection process.
Graphene also has been used to make eco-friendly paint. Because graphene is a superconductor, the addition of graphene to paint can improve the thermal regulation of buildings, requiring less heating and air conditioning. Graphene’s inclusion in paints, coatings and other building materials greatly enhances strength, durability and coverage.
Solar panels on a home are a great source of energy. Graphene can be made into transparent solar cells that can turn virtually any surface into a source of electric power. This technology could give homeowners the opportunity to turn something like a garage door, window or roof into a solar conductor, all while maintaining the desired look of the home.
Glowing walls could soon replace the light bulb, allowing for the introduction of glowing “wallpaper.” This would provide a more pleasant, adjustable light across a room compared to lightbulbs, and it can also be made more energy-efficient.
It’s also a highly efficient conductor of both heat and electricity and conducts electricity better than copper.
To produce sound, regular speakers create a pressure wave in the air by physically moving back and forth. Graphene can create a non-moving solid-state audio device that would eliminate the need for a large sound system and speakers.
Researchers believe they can incorporate speakers into ultra-thin touch screen technologies, in which the screen is able to produce sound on its own and could probably be incorporated onto walls.
Graphene can make batteries that are light, durable and suitable for high capacity energy storage, as well as shorten charging times. It will extend the battery’s lifetime and will add conductivity without requiring the amounts of carbon that are used in conventional batteries. Graphene can also be used to create new batteries that recharge quickly.
Water conservation is a high priority in our country. It is expected that by 2020, 25 million people (in seven states), including Arizona and Nevada, will be forced to cut back on water usage as Lake Mead and Lake Powell essentially run dry. Graphene membranes can be used as water filters, filtering 85 percent of salt out of seawater.
Although this percentage is not quite pure enough for drinking purposes, it is perfect for agricultural and landscaping use. This can help regions affected by the drought, that are located near large bodies of water and maintain modern, low-water landscaping using a better eco-friendy solution.
Combining all of graphene’s amazing properties could create a holistic impact on the world of smarter homes, and its participation as a change agent is not far away.