Since its discovery in 2004, graphene – a material derived from graphite – has proven to be a miracle material for scientists and industry alike. No wonder it is also known as the material of the future. The reason? Its exceptional properties which could and already have revolutionized many sectors! And which have also found their way in the cycling world. In this blog article we will take a deeper look at this exceptional material and the exceptional characteristics. At the same time we will discuss some popular cycling wear and gear products which already using graphene nowadays. Think about graphene cycling jerseys, graphene cycling bibs, disc brake pads and bike tires.
The history of graphene
Let’s start our graphene journey into the cycling world with a small piece of history. Once upon a time.. there were some scientists from the renowned CNRS who were astonished by a new material called graphene. The fact they were astonished was clearly visible when reading out loud their findings:
“It is flexible, lightweight, ultra-strong, transparent and most importantly, an excellent conductor. The list of graphene’s qualities is impressive.”
In order to understand the benefits of graphene take a seat and welcome to your physics class. Graphene is a modification (appearance) of carbon. The carbon is arranged in 2-dimensional layers to form a honeycomb (hexagonal) pattern. Graphene is the world’s first 2D material consisting of only a single atomic layer of carbon. Although the single atomic layer version is the purest form of graphene and the most popular one, scientists and the industry sometimes also use bi-layer or multi-layer versions. The more layers, the cheaper the graphene production but the more deterioration of the beneficial properties.
Nobel Prize in Physics
The stacking of the sheets is by the way called graphite. Indeed, well-known and used for centuries for amongst others your classic pencil. It were two scientists who managed to isolate the sheets and to discover graphene. And all this thanks to adhesive tape! It made them win the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010.
They managed to isolate a single atom. Many thought it was not possible, that it could not be physically stable. That’s what was remarkable. Besides, it possessed properties that no scientists had never encountered before in a solid material.”
The impressive properties of graphene
Impressive, exceptional, unique, extraordinary, revolutionary… a list of superlatives which seems and also is endless. First of all, Graphene is incredibly strong thanks to the small distance between the carbon atoms. The distance between these atoms is only 0.14 nanometres. As a normal human being it is difficult to realize how close this is. But what if we tell you it is one of the shortest distances in the world of atoms known to mankind? This means that the bonds between the atoms are very strong. It required a hige amount of energy to break this bond. It makes graphene two hundred times stronger than steel.
Besides Graphene is as light as feather or even lighter. Graphene consists of a single layer of atoms and is therefore one of the thinnest materials in the world. At only 0.77 mg/m², it is therefore a very light material which is very stable but still pliable and stretchable.
It is also an excellent thermal and especially electrical conductor. Graphene is electrically conductive, has a high electrical density (1,000,000 times the density of copper), and high intrinsic mobility. Another property of graphene is its very high thermal conductivity, which is higher than graphite. Graphene conducts heat in all directions, making it an isotropic conductor.
Last but not least graphene is transparent, unless you add several layers on top of each other which makes the color black, and it has a high impermeability.
Thanks to all these properties graphene is a very interesting material for applications in electronics, photonics, plasmonics and also in cycling as you will notice later on. Moreover polymeric materials combine perfectly with graphene. When combined with or integrated in other materials it even enhances the properties of that material and adds new properties to it.
Graphene in the world of cycling
Imagine what scientists and developers can do with such a powerful material. We immediately think about ultra-powerful batteries, ever faster microprocessors, lighter and more flexible screens but also stronger cycling clothing, strong bike tubes and better heat conducting disc brake pads. Nowadays almost all sectors are benefiting from their properties in one way or another and moving forward the number of graphene products and applications will only increase.
AbsoluteBlack graphene cycling disc brake pads
We all know AbosluteBlack for their performance improving, groundbreaking and revolutionary oval chainrings and carbon ceramic oversized derailleur pulley cage aka Hollowcage. Well, the famous brand has added another exceptional and high-performance product to its assortment, the graphene cycling disc brake pads.
These graphene brake pads for Shimano and Sram are the result of three years of development by the brand. Their goal was simple. To create pads that would have the same braking power, initial bite and perfect modulation throughout a long ride. Based on the results of machine testing and thermal imaging, AbsoluteBlack was able to reduce pad and rotor temperatures by up to 35% compared to the competition and eliminate that “spongy brake” feeling. The AbsoluteBlack graphene cycling disc brake pads contain specially modified graphene in their friction compound, which greatly improves braking performance, durability and heat transfer to the backplate.
Although it has been discovered in 2004, graphene is still a quite new material in the world of brake pads and especially it the world of bike disc brake pads. Due to its unique properties and years of testing, AbsoluteBlack developed a product that will change the cycling world forever. In the automotive industry, the majority of major manufacturers have already filed several patent applications for brake pad components containing Graphene, so it is clear that this is the future of brake pads. Let’s say AbsoluteBlack is one step ahead. Discover their brake pads here.
Oakley Graphene Aero cycling jersey
Graphene in cycling jerseys was first used some years ago by the American brand Oakley. Oakley uses the patented G-Technology from the Italian company Directa Plus. The Italian company was founded in 2005 and is now listed on the stock exchange. It is one of the world’s largest producers of raw materials. With its patented Graphene Plus technology, one of the most advanced in terms of thermoregulation, the brand claims to bring unique performance to sports and outdoor products.
Oakley uses this technology in their Graphene aero cycling jersey to regulate body temperature more effectively than a standard jersey, whether it’s heat, cold or moisture management. It helps the cyclist to regulate his temperature, and therefore save energy to focus on performance. The reason for this is the outstanding thermal conductivity of the material, which is superior even to metals such as silver. In the Oakley Graphene Aero cycling jersey, a mesh of graphene material from Directa+ is applied on the interior of the jersey.
Vittoria Graphene Cycling Tires: graphene 2.0
The company Vittoria began adding graphene to its road and mountain bike tires and carbon wheels in 2016! Upon its release, the Italian company was able to demonstrate several benefits for its bike tires, including improved performance and resistance. The first generation of graphene rubber tires has been highly praised by many cyclists around the world. Since then, a lot of research has been done on graphene, which has resulted in an even increased performance and enhances properties and applications: graphene 2.0 was born!
Vittoria is a member of the European Graphene Flagship research program, which is the most well-supported research initiative with a budget of one billion Euros. Graphene 2.0 is a new type of graphene that has benefited from the results of this laboratory research and now offers more possibilities for optimizing rubber compounds. The details remain confidential to this day but the result is there and the figures given by Vittoria are impressive! Depending on its concentration and how it is used, graphene 2.0 improves tire deformation and grip as well as performance at different temperatures or optimizes cut and puncture resistance. Find the Vittoria Graphene 2.0 Tubes here.
Alé Graphene Cycling Jackets
Italian cycling clothing brand Alé has a full line of graphene cycling clothing supported by their brand new exclusive technology named G+. Famous are their graphene cycling clothing jackets with have an optimized and enhanced speed and temperature control aspect. The jerseys and jackets are made with a Graphene yarn-based fabric that allow riders to push their performance to the max while keeping the body in ideal thermal conditions. G+ was tested in a climate chamber with controlled temperature and humidity (14°C, 50%), the G+ graphene technology proves to promote an even distribution of the heat produced by the body during physical activity. It also helps reduce the relative humidity of the skin under the jacket, which increases comfort during exercise and reduces the feeling of coldness after training.
Last but not least G+ provides the jacket with bacteriostatic properties, which will reduce the development of bad odors. Find Alé Graphene Cycling Jackets here.
As stated before graphene is the material of the future in the cycling world. We have discussed bike disc brake pads, jerseys and tyres but what about wheels? Just by looking at the benefits; stronger, lighter and thermoregulation… one would immediately think about applying this material to compose composite-carbon wheels. And that is exactly what some progressive wheel builders and designers have done. They are the pioneers within bicycle wheel building, and we expect several other brands to begin using graphene in their designs in the coming years as well.
It is ”the material of the future” for cycling products. It is a nanotechnology material that will help produce stronger, lighter and more wear-resistant wheels. Graphene has amazing properties that set it apart from other materials.
The benefits of graphene-composite wheels
Several world-famous laboratories and Research & Development departments of famous brands like Vittoria discovered the benefits of combining composites with graphene reinforcements. It results in wheels with 10 – 30% better material properties. The main benefits are:
- Graphene reduces temperature build-up
- Graphene reduces brake surface wear
- Graphene measurably increases the strength of spoke holes
- Graphene significantly improves lateral stiffness
- Graphene reduces the weight of wheels
One of the big disadvantages of most carbon wheel for example is their performance and braking power on rainy days. By adding graphene to the braking surface the braking power significantly increases and you experience a better temperature control. If you combine such wheels with for example the graphene disc brake pads of AbsoluteBlack you get the ultimate graphene cycling performance machine!
– If you combine such wheels with for example the graphene disc brake pads of AbsoluteBlack you get the ultimate graphene cycling performance machine! –