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A graphene coating has been used to boost thermal conductivity of the common plastic polyethylene terephthalate (PET) by up to 600 times. This new result from an international team of physicists and engineers could substantially increase the use of PET and other plastics in technologies such as solid-state lighting and electronic chips, where the ability to conduct heat is essential.

PET is a widely used plastic that will be familiar to anyone who has bought a bottle of water or soft drink. It is low-cost, strong, durable and recyclable, and it can be moulded into just about any shape. Fibres of the plastic are also used to make fabrics such as polar fleece. While PET's low thermal conductivity makes it ideal for warm clothing, its inability to transfer large amounts of heat precludes its use in electronics and other devices where getting rid of heat is important.

Graphene is a sheet of carbon just one atom thick, and has an exceptionally high thermal conductivity of about 2000–5000 W/mK near room temperature – compared with about 0.2 W/mK for PET. Graphene's thermal conductivity will drop when it is placed on a substrate, because heat-carrying lattice vibrations are scattered by interactions with the substrate. However, the thermal conduction of the graphene layer will still remain high, relative to most other materials.

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