Graphene has stood at the centre of research in materials being the thinnest, lightest, and the strongest material that exists. Scientists have been able to create 3D models of graphene to be able to use its super qualities in practical applications. Lighter than a feather and stronger than steel, graphene really is appearing to be a wonder material that has applications in a variety of fields including biomedical, aeronautics, automotive, and much more.
Founder of the British airline Virgin Atlantic, Sir Richard Branson has brought up the possibility of future planes being entirely made of graphene within the next ten years. The airline founded in 1984 has faced a record increase of 50 percent in fuel prices during the last one year and is thus expected to make a loss this year. Such a situation raises the need for a lighter fleet that will have lower fuel consumption.
Sir Richard Branson describes graphene as a “breakthrough technology” that has the ability to revolutionise the entire airline industry by a significant reduction in cost. The airline also aims to reduce its carbon footprint by using cleaner fuels, and the reduction in fuel consumption will play a meaningful role in achieving this goal.
The British airline just began to fly on a regular basis in Seatle, where the Sir Richard expressed his hopes with the future of graphene saying, “Graphene is even lighter [than carbon fibre], many times lighter and many times stronger. Hopefully, graphene can be the planes of the future, if you go 10 years down the line. They would be massively lighter than the current planes, which again would make a difference on fuel burn.”
Sir Richard had previously pushed Airbus and Boeing to make planes with carbon fiber, to which the manufacturers complied. Traditional planes are made with 100% aluminum, but Boeing’s latest 787 Dreamliner planes are 50 percent carbon fiber and other composite materials which have reduced the fuel consumption by 30 percent.
Sir Richard Branson is hopeful, and so are we for a greener, cleaner earth and probably less costly air travel.