Graphene has many spectacular properties, but did you ever expect it to be used for treating epilepsy? A recent patent application from the Department of Neurological Surgery of the University of Washington suggests just such an application for our favorite material.
In this invention, graphene is used for its thermal conduction properties. United States Patent Application number 20120290052 describes a method to replace a part of the skull with a thermally conductive plate. In one embodiment, the thermal conductor contains graphene. Among other materials considered are diamond, carbon nanotubes, gadolinium, and copper beads.
The authors of the patent claim that cooling the brain by 1.2 degrees Celsius helps inhibit epileptic seizures. Cooling is provided by replacing the thermally insulating human skull by the thermally conductive graphene element, allowing heat to flow from the brain to the cooler scalp. Implementations to date have involved implantation of electronic coolers (Peltier elements) or complex structures such as heat pipes, and batteries, deep into the brain, the coolers being switched on only during a seizure to preserve battery life. None of the earlier methods can actually prevent a seizure, only reduce its duration and intensity by active cooling once it has started. The method proposed in the UofW patent is always on, does not require power, and prevents seizures before they occur.
With so many possible implementations and only preliminary experimental results, it is likely that the practical devices are still in their cradle. Graphene companies, what are you waiting for?