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Scientists found a way to make graphene 200 times cheaper and greener

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Posted June 24, 2019

Graphene is the thinnest and strongest material that we know. It is also great heat and electricity conductor. It is a peculiar material, only one atom thick. Someday it will help taking electronics to a whole new level. However, making it is not easy. Now scientists from RMIT University used Eucalyptus bark extract to make graphene in a cheaper and more sustainable way.

Eucalyptus bark extract is key in producing cheaper and more sustainable graphene. Image credit: Christian Ferrer via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Graphene is actually incredible. People use this word too much, but here it is fitting. Graphene flexible, transparent and incredibly strong – it is ideal for anything from flexible nanoelectronics to better fuel cells. However, now scientists cannot really manufacture it in a reliable way. Instead it is being grown in labs in rather small quantities.

Currently the cost of making one gram of graphene is somewhere around $USD100. But Australian scientists believe that they know a way to bring the cost way down to just 50 cents per gram. This would make it available to research facilities around the world and would accelerate graphene research and application in industry.

Graphene can be made in several different ways. Chemical reduction is the most common method used, but graphene that it produces is expensive. Also, scientists can only produce graphene in low quantities using this method. Furthermore, this method is not very environmentally friendly, because it relies on reducing agents that are dangerous to both people and the environment. However, having in mind that we do need to progress the graphene research, no one really pays attention to the sustainability of its manufacturing methods.

Eucalyptus bark extract has never been used to synthesise graphene sheets before, but scientists felt that it is the way to go. They created a method, which avoids the use of toxic reagents. Green graphene is non-toxic, which opens up the possibilities of using it in biocompatible materials. Scientists also tested the green graphene in the application of a supercapacitor and found that here is matched the performance of traditionally produced graphene.

“Graphene is a remarkable material with great potential in many applications due to its chemical and physical properties and there’s a growing demand for economical and environmentally friendly large-scale production”, reminded Suresh Bhargava, lead researcher in the study. Improving the production methods of graphene is an inevitable step towards better electronics, bio-electronic devices and fuel cells.

Graphene is incredible, but it is even better when produced in a sustainable, environmentally friendly way. Hopefully scientists will be able to take this method to full scale production, bringing the cost of graphene way down.

 

Source: RMIT University

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