Researchers cook up electronics grade graphene from soybean oil

Dr. Dong Han Seo, a co-author of the study, looks at a piece of graphene film produced by the new method. Image Source: CSIRO)
Cheaper way to make Graphene

Australian scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), have developed a novel “GraphAir” technology for faster and cheaper production of The wonder material – Graphene.

Within the technology, the researchers managed to eliminate the originally time-consuming production process. They developed a new method using something you can find in your local supermarket – Soybean oil.

Graphene (GR) has been sought after for a long time due to its conductive properties and its sheer strength. Being just 1 atom thick, its sturdy characteristics and flexibility are being looked at for usage in T.V. and computer screens, batteries, sensors and solar cells.

GR is used in the world’s smallest transistor. So it’s very likely that its usage in integrated circuits will dramatically increase once these new manufacturing methods start becoming more popular and widely used.

Problem with The Wonder Material and “GraphAir’ to it Rescue

GR is remarkably conductive and strong – more conductive than copper and over 200 times stronger than steel. So why isn’t it so widely used?

The problem with GR is that its usage has been limited to nanotechnology. The production has been limited mainly due to the requirement of highly-controlled vacuum environment with high operation time. This makes it exceedingly difficult and expensive to successfully mass produce.

Potentially, that’s all about to change!

The technology, which has been named “GraphAir”, produces graphene of similar quality to the traditional production method.

One key benefit of GraphAir compared to the older production method is no longer need compressed gasses or low-pressure vacuums. Rather just a tube furnace and around half an hour of heating at 800°C (1073.15K).

How Soyabean oil is turned into Graphene

“GraphAir transforms soybean oil into graphene films in a single step procedure”­ – says CSIRO.

By using heat, soybean oil breaks down into a range of carbon building units that are essential for graphene synthesis, the CSIRO explained Further.

“Our GraphAir technology results in good and transformable graphene properties, comparable to the one made by conventional methods,” claimed CSIRO scientist Dr. Dong Han Seo.

But this process isn’t limited to just soybean oil. According to the team, any leftover domestic cooking oil can also be transformed to produce graphene films.

“We can now recycle waste oils that would have otherwise been discarded and transform them into something useful”, said Dr. Seo, co-author of this study.

The application goes beyond electronics and to techniques used for water filtration and purification, medicine, renewable energy, sensors.

A translucent film is bent in a person's handThe thin film of graphene prepared using “GraphAir” technology is strong yet flexible. Image Source: CSIRO 

Another recent method

Across the other side of the world, researchers from Kansas State University have also been busy at work developing methods for producing graphene.

Unfortunately, your local supermarket won’t be much use for this method, as hydrocarbon gas is one of the main ingredients for this method.

The method is much less complex than its predecessors – simply using an automotive spark plug in an oxygen rich environment containing the hydrocarbon gas is all that’s needed for graphene to be formed.

Chris Sorenson is the lead inventor of this new patent. What initially started off as a patent development for carbon soot aerosol gels ended up accidentally becoming a breakthrough graphene production method.

“We didn’t plan on making graphene. We planned on making the aerosol gel and we got lucky”, a remarkably honest explanation from Sorensen himself.

“Our process has many positive properties, from the economic feasibility, the possibility for large-scale production and the lack of nasty chemicals”.

“What might be the best property of all is that the energy required to make a gram of graphene through our process is much less than other processes because all it takes is a single spark”, he said.

Nobel Possibility

Although still just theoretical, this discovery increases its potential in computing chips. Scientists at IBM Research are working towards exploring possibilities of using GR to create new chips that exploit the way electrons move fast.

Nobel prizes, millions of dollars and decades of years of research are attributed to graphene. It’s no surprise that this manufacturing breakthrough will revolutionize the production of many graphene-based industries.

The research was recently published in Nature communications.

Source CSIRO ABC Kansas State News

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