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Carbon, Carbon Everywhere—But Not in the United States

As you may know from a previous guidepost, my recent global romp from Seoul (a whiteout with masks and Covid) to Jerusalem (carousing with some 460 startups at “Our Crowd”) to Barcelona for the Mobile World Congress brought me a cornucopia of new ventures.

But almost everything on the trip confirmed my new paradigm: The Age of Carbon coming on full speed to supplant the Silicon Era, creating wealth and advancing human well-being on a scale even greater than the silicon microchip.

Driving the new epoch is the rapid approach of available high-quality, low-cost graphene, an allotrope of carbon with extraordinary properties derived from its unique structure: a perfect crystal formation only a single atom thick. Single-layer graphene sheets are 200 times stronger than steel, but as elastic as rubber, as well the best conductors of electricity or heat yet discovered.

Before my trip, I believed I had fully grasped graphene’s transformative potential. I featured it in my new book, “Life After Capitalism,” which doesn’t come out until May 30. But out on the road, I realized its impact is coming faster than I knew.

  • Graphene’s near superconductivity at room temperature, super-sensitivity, and its ability to switch from conductor to insulator can enable smaller and more versatile transistors that build logic circuits and sensors smaller, faster and more functional than anything we’ve ever made in silicon.
  • Its supreme signal-to-noise ratio will exponentially enhance communications across a severed spinal cord or across a continent.
  • Promising a hundredfold acceleration of the wireless internet, graphene raises the possibility of moving lightspeed communications from fiber optics seamlessly into the air.
  • Graphene nanoribbon antennae can communicate in the light domain at high energies and frequencies and can be tuned by the application of an electric field. Graphene can enable optical switches with a hundredfold lower latency than existing optical devices.
  • Graphene super-capacitors can charge a thousand times faster than lithium-ion batteries.
  • Graphene image sensors outperform current cameras, use 10 times less energy and are cheaper to manufacture than existing charge coupled devices or complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) sensors.

This is not mere theory. All these devices are in development now… just mostly not in the United States.

The single-most important breakthrough in the field was made here at Rice in Houston two years ago when Professor James Tour and his student Luong Xuan Duy from Vietnam invented the “flash joule heating” process to generate perfect ribbons of high-quality graphene at a thousandth of the previous cost.

Yet as I learned in my travels, most of the entrepreneurial action in graphene is happening elsewhere:  in Israel, the United Kingdom, Europe and even sanctioned and trade banned China.

Tour and his team have fostered some 16 companies (so far), applying his breakthrough technology to fusing severed spinal cords, curing intractable cancers, radically improving the efficiency and strength of concrete, asphalt and other industrial materials, terminating trillion-dollar counterfeiting operations, mining rare earth metals from electronic waste and banishing pollution from factories.

Yet nearly all the Tour companies are headquartered not in the United States, but in Israel. They are led by Israeli scientists and entrepreneurs, funded through Israeli venture firms, and sometimes capitalized by former Arab enemies welcomed to Israeli capital markets by the Abraham Accords.

The one outstanding exception — and probably the most important of all the Tour companies — Universal Matter is…Canadian.

It was on the final stop of my trip, however, at the Mobile World Congress 2023 in Barcelona that I learned just how far the Age of Carbon has already come and how far behind the United States may have already slipped.

The conference brought together a crowd of some 80,000 people from 180 countries to throng some 2,000 exhibits of galactic wireless incandescence, incubated mostly not in the United States.

From the United Kingdom, Versarien Graphene PLC celebrated Graphene’s ability to conduct 100% of electrical signals passed through, giving tones “rich, sharp and crystal clear” when used in earphones. Imagine what it could do for my hearing aids.

Current wireless networks are plagued by base stations overheating from high frequency 5G devices. A solution is coming from Sweden where APR Technologies is using graphene’s cryo-powers to build a miniature cooling pump one tenth the size of existing cryo-pumps “with no moving parts” cooling “base station antennas to minus 150 degrees Celsius, keeping the 5G signal steady.”

In Germany, AMO GmbH and RWTH from Aachen University are creating Wi-Fi receivers with 24 graphene doped glass and plastic receptors that can function at frequencies up to 90GHz, giving Wi-Fi double the spectrum range of 5G standards.

And where is the United States? Blighted by Sarbanes’ accounting mazes, ESG constraints, climate change dementia and now a government-sponsored hate campaign against China that threatens to leave us a permanent number two (or three) unless we reverse course.

Speaking of China, I have not even mentioned how the world’s most hated company is in the process of asserting its world leadership in Carbon Age Communication. But that’s for next time.

P.S. I am pleased to announce that I will be speaking at the next Wealth365 Summit. This is the largest online wealth summit in the world, and the event is from April 17th – 22nd. There are 60+ speakers presenting that week, and I will be one of the keynote speakers for the event. Click here to learn more and register.

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