11 June 2019
As the lightest, strongest and most conductive material in the world, graphene is the logical building block on which intelligent clothing will be based. While clothes have been used for the same basic things over the last 50,000 years – to stay warm, dry, cool and alive – over the next 50 to 50,000 years we will start to use clothing for mental and physical enhancement. And given it has zero mass and superhuman strength, graphene will be central to that story.
So rather than waiting 10 years to get into people’s hands we decided to go early and see what happened. The Graphene Jacket 1 was an experimental prototype – a fully reversible jacket, with one side coated in graphene and the other not. The jacket sold out in 5 days and the experiment began.
Of course the experimental path we took had already been set by Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov – the scientists who first isolated graphene at Manchester University in 2004. Through their highly speculative and unfunded Friday Night Experiments, they peeled layer after layer off a shaving of graphite using Scotch tape until they produced a sample of graphene just one atom thick. 4 years earlier, similarly lateral thinking had won Geim the Ig Nobel prize for levitating frogs using magnets. But this time their thinking won them the Nobel Prize.
Following in their footsteps it only felt right that our wearer trials should be entirely open-ended, utterly experimental and end up involving a sleeping Chinese camel.
15 years after graphene was first discovered, Dr Grant L Holley, one of our customers, was on night watch in the Gobi desert. Everyone else was asleep and he was cold. So he did what any logical person would do. He took off his Graphene Jacket, he tied it to the belly of his camel, and he waited.
You see in 2014 physicists at the Max Planck Institute revealed that graphene challenges the fundamental laws of heat conduction. While the amount of heat a material can conduct was believed to stay constant whatever size or shape it was, the conductivity of graphene increases the more graphene there is, which means that it can theoretically absorb an unlimited amount of heat.
20 minutes later, with his Graphene Jacket heated by the warmth from the camel’s skin and working like a radiator, Grant untied it, put it back on, heated himself up, and made it through to the morning without losing any fingers or limbs. As well as still being alive, the other thing that quickly became apparent was that the jacket hadn’t picked up the camel’s unique smell. Speculating that it was thanks to the bacteriostatic properties of graphene which doesn’t let bacteria grow on the surface, he kept the jacket, burned his pants as they smelled so badly of camel, then wrote to us.
Which is why we find ourselves 9 months after it launched, and half way through our findings, opening up the test group one final time for the Graphene Jacket 1.
The sheer volume of the requests that we’ve had on email, and the crazily lateral nature of the experiments people are running, convinced us to sell it again before we disappear back into R&D for the next 2+ years.