Graphene is cool stuff. The single atom thick layer of carbon has a number of properties that make almost endlessly useful because of all the neat tricks, it can do it’s popularly dubbed a wonder material, but over a decade and a half after it was first eisel thing I’m wondering is, where is it turns out the stuff is really hard to make in useful quantities, but a recent breakthrough from researchers of Rice University promises to make large amounts of graphene in a flash from your trash.
Graphene looks like this. It’s what I call it graphic. Anyway, it’s still much to look at it, kind of resembles chicken wire, but this honeycomb lattice of carbon can do some amazing things. It is one of the thinnest strongest and most conductive materials we have ever discovered, its strength can be used to make other materials stronger. It’s amazing conductivity could help us make energy dense batteries or efficient heat sinks, its flexibility can make wearable electronics and bendable displays, you get the idea.
Do I really need to keep going, which is why it is so frustrating that it’s so hard to make in large amounts ironic considering it was first isolated by applying a piece of sticky tape like you might have in your home to a block of graphite and peeling it off, and then re sticking it and peeling the tape apart until you’re left with thin flakes. It’s like, it’s taunting us, but there’s a reason we don’t have armies of people just peeling tape apart. The graphene that this technique produces is still a few layers thick, and we’re after that single atom thick goodness.
As of right now, the prevailing methods to achieve that usually involve assembling it on sheets of copper than using plastics and chemicals to get it off, but the process is slow, expensive and not environmentally friendly, a piece of 60 millimetre by 40 millimetr monolayer graphene on copper will cost you about $172. But what if we’re overthinking this, what if we could just take any old carbon source and zap it to make graphene. As far as I can tell, that’s basically the line of thinking the researchers from Rice University followed the process they developed involves charging up high voltage capacitors with electricity, then unleashing it all at once into just about any carbon containing material, anything from coal which is basically all carbon to start with to plastics to food waste.
The current passes through the target material heating it to over 3000 Kelvin and breaking every carbon to carbon bonds in the process, the non carbon elements sublime out while the carbon atoms rearrange themselves as graphene excess energy is dispersed as light. So researchers dubbed this product flash graphene, the change can take as little as 10 milliseconds. Not only does this process produce a gramme of graphene quickly and cheaply. It also makes a particular kind of graphene called turbo stratigraphic. Unlike a be stacked graphene which has orderly layers that are hard to pry apart the layers of turbo strategy crafting have no order linemen. This means they can easily be separated using solvents, or inside composite materials.
Now, this process doesn’t make large sheets of graphene just small flakes, so it may not be the breakthrough that leads to flexible screens, you can put on a T shirt, but it still has some very useful. I’ll be at less flashy applications.
The researchers envision flash graphing being added to concrete, an estimate that just a fraction of a percent of graphene added could boost cement strength by 35%. That translates to less building material needed saving costs and lessening the environmental impact flash graphene can be an ecological double win, because it can be made with recycled plastic or food waste, or can be an alternative use for cheap coal that doesn’t involve burning it and releasing co2, the Department of Energy thinks turning coal into graphene looks promising, and are funding the research with the goal of producing a kilogramme of flash graphene a day. Within two years.
I know we’re all clamouring for graphing to take the world by storm. But the reality is that it’ll take incremental steps like this to bring this wonder material into our daily lives. It’s already showing up in places that are hard to spot like inside headphones or the coding of motorcycle helmets. Now, thanks to this new work, it may seem show up in our buildings too. And the only way you might be able to tell is if you measure the thickness of the walls or.
Notice that there were suddenly a lot less plastic and banana peels lying around, one of the lead researchers from rice, James tour started experimenting with making graphing out of odd sources, because of a bet in 2011, where a colleague challenged him to make it out of, among other things, cockroaches, and dog poop.