The endlessly hyped, next-generation wonder material graphene can apparently be created using nothing but graphite, water, dishwasing detergent, and a kitchen blender — based on recent findings from researchers at Trinity College Dublin.
The one-atom thick honeycombed sheets of carbon have a great number of potential applications in renewable energy technologies, electronics, the aerospace industry, etc. A cheap means of manufacturing the material would allow such applications to become notably more economical.
The conventional methods of manufacturing graphene are generally quite tedious, complex, and/or expensive — which makes the new method based around a normal everyday kitchen blender seem all the more humorous. 🙂
The researchers from the Irish-UK team simply poured graphite powder (think of pencil leads) into a kitchen blender, added water, added dishwashing liquid, and then mixed at high speed. And, viola! Graphene.
BBC Science provides more:
Jonathan Coleman from Trinity College Dublin and colleagues tested out a variety of laboratory mixers as well as kitchen blenders as potential tools for manufacturing the wonder material.
They showed that the shearing force generated by a rapidly rotating tool in solution was sufficiently intense to separate the layers of graphene that make up graphite flakes without damaging their two-dimensional structure.
However, it’s not advisable to try this at home. The precise amount of dishwashing fluid that’s required is dependent on a number of different factors and the black solution containing graphene would need to be separated afterwards. But the researchers said their work “provides a significant step” towards deploying graphene in a variety of commercial applications.
The researchers are now working with the UK-based firm Thomas Swan to scale the process up to the industrial level — with the aim being to build a pilot project that could produce about a kilo of graphene a day by the end of the 2014.
The new findings were just published in the journal Nature Materials. You can find the paper here.