Greener Graphene? Eco-Friendlier Mass Production Method Shows Promise

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Image via Rensselaer/Kar

Graphene has been touted for the last few years as the next big thing in electronics. Potentially replacing copper and silicon in devices and promising to provide more energy efficient, faster charging batteries, the material has so far been limited by an inability to be mass produced. However, researchers have found a way to make a whole lot of graphene quickly and cheaply, which means we could see big improvements in everything from environment sensors for detecting pollution levels to OLED lighting to energy storage. PhysOrg reports, "By submerging graphite in a mixture of dilute organic acid, alcohol, and water, and then exposing it to ultrasonic sound, the team discovered that the acid works as a "molecular wedge" which separates sheets of graphene from the parent graphite. The process results in the creation of large quantities of undamaged, high-quality graphene dispersed in water. Kar and team then used the graphene to build chemical sensors and ultracapacitors."

According to lead researcher Swastik Kar, the process is more promising than others developed thus far because it is low cost, can be performed at room temperature, doesn't require any harsh chemicals, and doesn't need any controlled environment chambers.

"This simplicity enabled us to directly demonstrate high-performance applications related to environmental sensing and energy storage, which have become issues of global importance," states Kar.

Researchers have also discovered that taking into account imperfections in a graphene surface can improve its ability to conduct electricity. As scientists discover the tricks and details of this new "miracle material," it will be interesting to see how they piece together to boost the abilities of electronics.

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