With the global fall-out from Donald Trump’s travel ban now in its sixth day, fresh outbreaks of fighting in Ukraine, and the alarming news earlier this week that a key malaria drug has stopped working, it’s time for some good news. So here it is: scientists in Australia have turned ordinary soybean cooking oil into the “miracle material” graphene. Graphene is a carbon material just one-atom thick, and it is not hyperbole to say it has the potential to change the world.

The BBC reports:

“The new method involves heating soybean oil in ambient air until it breaks down into ‘carbon building units that are essential for the synthesis of graphene’, the CSIRO [Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation] said.

It is then rapidly cooled on nickel foil into a thin rectangle.

Dr [Zhao Han] said the process is simpler and safer than existing methods, which use explosive compressed gases and vacuum processing.

He said under current technology, a high-quality graphene film with a 10cm (4 inches) diameter costs up to A$1000 (£600, $750).

The new method could make it ‘significantly’ cheaper, he said.”

If you’re not sure why this is so exciting, remember that graphene is 200 times stronger than steel and 6 times lighter. The amount of graphene you’d need to cover a football field would weigh less than one gram. It is better at conducting heat and electricity than basically any other material – far better than standard conductors like copper. It is also almost completely transparent, and is extremely flexible, so it can be easily shaped or curved.

With that in mind, here’s a quick recap of just some of the things graphene can be used for:

* Energy storage. Graphene batteries are able to both store large amounts of energy and release it incredibly quickly. Think of being able to fully charge an iPhone in 30 seconds or a Tesla car in a few minutes. Then think of the subsequent technological breakthroughs that could be made possible by revolutionised batteries – electric cars, solar-powered roads, space travel, long-ranging drones and low-carbon aircrafts, to name just a few.

* Desalination. Water molecules can pass through graphene, but most other particles can’t. That gives it huge potential for making salt water drinkable, at a fraction of the cost of standard filtration technologies. According to the aerospace and technology company Lockheed Martin, a graphene filter could decrease the energy costs of desalination by 99 percent, making it a crucial for expanding clean water access in developing countries.

* Medical implants and bio-sensors. Graphene’s strength, lightness and flexibility makes it ideal for artificial implants, especially as it is also compatible with the human body. Researchers are already investigating how to 3D-print artificial nerves, using graphene as an electrical conductor. It has also been found to have potential as a bio-sensor, detecting toxins, pollution and bacteria.

* Electronics and touch-screens. The flexibility and transparency of graphene makes it a great candidate for the development of flexible touch-screens for phones and computers. It could be a more robust and eco-friendly alternative to the indium tin oxide currently used (which is good, because a shortage of the rare earth metal indium could bring global innovation to a complete standstill). Graphene could also be combined with textiles to produce wearable electronics, to be used in anything from sport to healthcare.

* Alternative power. When it comes to sourcing materials for solar panels, graphene’s weight and conductivity makes it an obvious candidate. But there’s more: researchers from China believe they can use graphene to generate electricity from rain, using its ability to separate water molecules from impurities to harness power. Graphene-coated solar panels would therefore be able to produce renewable energy, whatever the weather.

There are many more potential applications for graphene, and most of them probably haven’t even been thought up yet. Right now, the only thing holding graphene technology back is the prohibitively high cost of producing it – at the end of 2015, it was about $100 per gram. That is what makes the soybean breakthrough from Australia so momentous. If we can make graphene cheaper and easier to manufacture, we will simultaneously be reducing the price of alternative energy, medical innovation, water desalination, and a host of other technologies. The miracle material is coming. Get your imagination ready.