Scientists develop world’s strongest material, graphene from soybean

Scientists develop world’s strongest material, graphene from soybean

8:57 AM, 17th February 2017
CSIRO Scientist Dr Dong Han Seo, co-author of the study, holds a piece of graphene film
CSIRO Scientist Dr Dong Han Seo, co-author of the study, holds a piece of graphene film.

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA: Graphene is a carbon material that is one atom thick. It's thin composition and high conductivity means it is used in applications ranging from miniaturised electronics to biomedical devices.

These properties also enable thinner wire connections; providing extensive benefits for computers, solar panels, batteries, sensors and other devices. Until now, the high cost of graphene production has been the major roadblock in its commercialization.

Previously, graphene was grown in a highly-controlled environment with explosively compressed gases, requiring long hours of operation at high temperatures and extensive vacuum processing.

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) scientists have developed a novel “GraphAir” technology which eliminates the need for such a highly-controlled environment. The technology grows graphene film in ambient air with a natural precursor, making its production faster and simpler.

“This ambient-air process for graphene fabrication is fast, simple, safe, potentially scalable, and integration-friendly,” CSIRO scientist Dr Zhao Jun Han, co-author of the study.

The research is published in the journal Nature Communications.

“Our unique technology is expected to reduce the cost of graphene production and improve the uptake of new applications.” GraphAir transforms soybean oil – a renewable, natural material - into graphene films in a single step.

“Our GraphAir technology results in good and transformable graphene properties, comparable to graphene made by conventional methods,” CSIRO scientist and co-author of the study Dr Dong Han Seo said.

With heat, soybean oil breaks down into a range of carbon building units that are essential for the synthesis of graphene. The team also transformed other types of renewable and even waste oil, such as those leftovers from barbecues or cooking, into graphene films.

“We can now recycle waste oils that would have otherwise been discarded and transform them into something useful,” Dr Seo said.

The potential applications of graphene include water filtration and purification, renewable energy, sensors, personalised healthcare and medicine, to name a few. Graphene has excellent electronic, mechanical, thermal and optical properties as well. Its uses range from improving battery performance in energy devices to cheaper solar panels.

CSIRO are looking to partner with industry to find new uses for graphene.

Researchers from The University of Sydney, University of Technology Sydney and The Queensland University of Technology also contributed to this work.

© CSIRO News  

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