US discovery could lead to mass-production of super material

Scientists at Kansas State University in the US have potentially discovered a method of mass-producing the wonder material graphene.

Hailed as a super material, graphene is thought to be the strongest of all known materials. It boasts an impressive list of superlatives: 200 times stronger than steel, the thinnest material on earth, the world’s most conductive material, as well as being transparent, impermeable and flexible.

However, until now, its practical use has been limited by the fact that it can’t be easily and cheaply mass-produced.

The new method, which was discovered accidentally when graphene was produced as an unintended byproduct during the team’s work on carbon soot aerosol gels, allows the material to be produced in much larger quantities than previously.

“We have discovered a viable process to make graphene,” said lead inventor Chris Sorensen. “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.”

Sorensen had received a patent for the process that involves putting oxygen and acetylene or ethylene gas in a chamber, where a contained detonation using a spark plug is supposed to occur. After detonation, graphene is formed and the process is simple, low-cost, and could easily be scaled up for industrial use.

Researcher Arjun Nepal added: “The real charm of our experiment is that we can produce graphene in the quantity of grams rather than milligrams.”

Image: Dreamstime

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  1. See also the report on an Australian team’s simpler method of producing graphene from soy bean oil. It mentions this process as being more expensive.

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