Soybeans hold key to stronger graphene
Graphene is the material of the modern age: strong, light, flexible and highly conductive. It is the basis of a new generation of wearable electronics. To improve the material further, researchers have been looking at the humble soybean.
The current and future applications of graphene have been regularly covered by Digital Journal (like the recent article on graphene being used to make a new generation of aircraft
). Graphene is an ultra-thin form of carbon, just one atom thick. The thin, flexible composition and good conductivity allow it to be used for a range of electronic devices, especially those intended for the medical sector and for personal use.
The biggest limitation with the future use of graphene is producing it on an industrial scale. The material remains expensive to manufacture, which limits its commercialization. The main means of manufacturing involves the use of compressed gasses at high temperatures, and the use of special controlled environments.
In order to lower the production costs, an Australian research group (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) has developed a new method which they are calling “GraphAir” technology
. The new process avoids the need for a controlled environment. Graphene is produced as a thin film in ambient air. The lower cost (and lower energy) conditions also help to speed up production.
At the heart of the new process is soybean oil (a renewable and naturally derived material). The carbon in the oil undergoes a transformation into graphene. When heat is applied, soybean oil breaks down into a series of carbon building units. These basic building blocks are then used for the synthesis of graphene. It is possible that other oils, including the recycling of waste oils, can be used in the process to create graphene.
Discussing the process with Controlled Environments
, principal scientist Dr. Zhao Jun Han explains: “This ambient-air process for graphene fabrication is fast, simple, safe, potentially scalable, and integration-friendly.”
The newly formed graphene is being tested out in water filtration and purification technologies. The researchers also plan to test out the material in solar panels, where the aim is to lower the cost of solar power technology.
The new method has been described in the journal Nature Communications
. The research paper is headed “Single-step ambient-air synthesis of graphene from renewable precursors as electrochemical genosensor.”