Did you watch the Oscars on Monday?
I used to watch them every year. My family and I had a bit of a tradition going on, we tried to see as many nominated movies before watching the ceremony.
But to be honest, I hadn’t watched the Oscars in a while. At least, not until last Monday.
And while I didn’t see many of the nominated movies this year, there was one I did watch, and it was one of my favourites: Black Panther.
The Marvel movie didn’t end up winning best picture, but it still did quite well. It took home three Oscars, including best costume design.
If you haven’t watched it, the costumes are quite important to the movie. In particular, the main character’s Black Panther costume.
The movie tells the story of T’Challa, who comes back to the African kingdom of Wakanda to become king after his father dies. Yet he has to fight for his position and for his country, and he does this as the super hero Black Panther.
Wakanda — not a real country — is technology savvy, and rich in vibranium. Vibranium is a mineral the country acquired when a meteorite fell into the area thousands of years ago.
Vibranium is key for Wakanda…and for the Black Panther.
They use it pretty much for everything. Things like powering the country and making clothes.
In fact, Black Panther’s suit is made of vibranium. That’s what allows the superhero to be bullet proof…and to be protected from sky high falls.
The suit may be bullet proof, but also light, and elastic, allowing Black Panther to move in it easily.
The suit can also absorb energy to then reuse it as a weapon.
Vibranium doesn’t exist in real life. But we may have something close already.
The similarities between vibranium and graphene
Physics professor James Kakalios, author of The Physics of Superheros, talked in a blog post about the similar properties between vibranium and graphene.
As National Geographic reported:
‘Graphene, he suggests, is the closest substance yet known.
‘Graphene consists of a single sheet of carbon atoms that are arranged in a hexagonal pattern. It’s one of the thinnest substances ever made. It’s both extremely flexible and at least a hundred times stronger than steel.
‘In their book on the substance, scientists Les Johnson and Joseph E. Meany explain that the material is made from graphite that is then chemically separated. Much of it turns into powder, and scientists are still figuring out how to turn it into sheets like plastic.
‘If they could, “you could put an elephant on it and it wouldn’t break,” Johnson tells The Verge.
‘Kakalios notes that, in the Black Panther, blasts absorbed by a vibranium suit would have to go somewhere. Energy can’t be lost. He suggests a phenomenon called sonoluminescence, in which waves are converted to light.
‘Theoretically, this might look like a beam of light beaming off a suit after impact. But in the movie, Black Panther’s sister, Shuri, has engineered the suit to store the kinetic energy it’s hit with so that it can be later used in blasts.’
Black Panther’s suit may be more than an armour, a suit that can absorb energy and use it as a weapon.
But in real life, we may be able to create similar bullet proof and flexible armour with graphene.
Graphene has a lot of remarkable properties.
It is one atom thick, which makes it very light and extremely thin. It is super strong, stronger than steel, but also flexible and elastic.
It is also transparent, 97%–98% of light can go through it.
It is a great conductor of heat and electricity.
And it is made of carbon, which is very common.
Graphene was discovered in 2004 but while there has been much hype about it, it’s only in the last year that we have seen real applications of the material.
We are starting to see graphene mixed with other materials to make shoes and clothes and even in batteries.
And we could be reaching a tipping point with graphene this year. Graphene has a lot of potential.
It could change the way we make solar panels, screens and sensors.
It could make for lighter and stronger cars.
It may allow for batteries that last longer and stay cool.
It may allow for lighter protective clothing in aerospace and lighter spaceships.
Scientists in Sydney are even studying its uses to purify water.
Graphene could very well be a game changer in industries like communications, energy and transportation.