How a DVD painted with a liquid carbon solution and stuck it into a standard-issue DVD burner could change the world. The result: Absurdly cheap graphene sheets one atom thick, which held a surprising amount of charge without further modification.
Graphene, a very simple carbon polymer, can be used as the basic component of a "supercapacitor" -- an electrical power storage device that charges far more rapidly than chemical batteries. Unlike other supercapacitors, though, graphene's structure also offers a high "energy density," -- it can hold a lot of electrons, meaning that it could conceivably rival or outperform batteries in the amount of charge it can hold.
Kaner Lab researcher Maher El-Kady found a way to create sheets of graphene a single carbon atom thick by covering a plastic surface with graphite oxide solution and bombarding it with precisely controlled laser light.