A near century old company – Alliance Rubber Co. – based in Alliance, Ohio has just announced a partnership with British researchers that will research ways of adding graphene into their most popular product – rubber bands. These graphene induced rubber bands could transform how supply chains transport food, make the transport of electronic equipment easier and most significantly, make them last forever.
The graphite that you see at the end of a pencil tip is made up of multiple layers of carbon atoms. When that layer is reduced to be just one atom thick – we get graphene. Though scientists knew about graphene, extracting it from graphite and using it has always been challenging, which is what makes this announcement exciting. Graphene’s signature property is its durability which is said to be 200 times stronger than steel. Back in 2008, a Columbia University engineer James Hone had this to say about the strength of graphene – it would take an elephant standing on a pencil to pierce through a sheet of graphene as thick as Saran Wrap (plastic food wrap).
Jason Risner, director of business strategy at Alliance said that the company will be working with researchers of the University of Sussex next year to determine the perfect graphene to rubber ratio that they would need. If the amount of graphene is too less, the rubber bands will not reach its max durability. If the amount of graphene is too high, the bands may loose its elastic property. Once they manage to get the exact ratio needed, the company has plans to sell these new bands to a number of industries, retailers and wholesalers.
Graphene bands might be able to fulfill many needs that the current rubber bands fail to satisfy. One example would be the ability of a graphene band to not generate static electricity – a feature that can be very valuable to electronic companies. They could also be fitted with RFID tags that can change color depending on temperature or time.
“Nobody who’s in the electronics industry wants anything coming near their motherboards and their circuit boards that has the ability to build up static charge. An anti-static band could be used in all of those settings around electronics and not be a danger to ruining the equipment,” Risner said.
“Imagine a rubber band that changes colors if it reaches above 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius),” he added. For stores that maintain a certain quality of products, he says “the grocery store would know that that produce went above the temperature that was promised to be deliver in, and that it’s going to spoil faster. They could reject it at the store because it’s changed color based on temperature.”
The extra strength and durability of these graphene bands would also benefit customers since they might never break. Eventually, Alliance plans to put graphene into every rubber band that it produces. Turning an ordinaary piece of rubber into a traceable device that will not break could be the next great leap forward according to director of business strategy, Jason Risner.