Last week’s update from scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee regarding cost efficient microbial fuel cells (MFCs) and microbial electrolysis cells (MECs,) didn’t involve the use of graphene. In fact their technology advance so far best graphene in MFCs and MECs in the limited testing to date.
Yesterday we covered a new technology advance that didn’t involve 21st century super material graphene, and in fact bested graphene alternatives at present. The new advance still relied on nano-carbon in a different form to graphene, and I pointed out that graphene based research was likely to mount a comeback ahead. That research comeback became more likely last week with the development of a new, low cost way of making graphene sheets for research purposes.
Until now, graphene research had been limited by the expense and difficulty of producing graphene in quantity. As the new method gains widespread recognition, I would expect to see many more global universities and science labs enter into the fray of graphene research, plus increased research in commercial labs. While it’s possible all this increased interest might generate little of any value, far more likely is that the pace of new announcements will increase in 2013, and that the speed of graphene advancement will increase. Lower cost nearly always leads to increased demand.
Graphene? From any lab!
Considered by many as the most promising material of the future, graphene still remains an expensive and hard-to-fabricate substance. Researchers from the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, and the Interdisciplinary Research Institute in Lille developed a low cost method for manufacturing multilayered graphene sheets. The new method does not require any specialized equipment and can be implemented in any laboratory.
A low cost method for producing graphene sheets has been developed in cooperation within research project by teams from the Institute of Physical Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IPC PAS) in Warsaw and the Interdisciplinary Research Institute (IRI) in Lille, France. The method is simple enough to be provided in almost any laboratory throughout the world.
Graphene was discovered in 2004, by peeling off carbon layers from graphite using an ordinary scotch tape. "In what had been peeled off the researchers were able to find one-atom-thick sheets. And that was graphene. If we are thinking about industrial applications of graphene, we have to find better controlled methods for producing this material in a large scale, without using an expensive, specialized equipment", says Izabela Kamińska, a PhD student from the IPC PAS, a scholarship holder of the Foundation for Polish Science within the International PhD Projects Programme. Kamińska has carried out her experiments at the International Research Institute.
—- The new process for producing graphene sheets starts with graphite, one of carbon allotrope, on the molecular level resembling a sandwich composed of many graphene planes. These sheets are hardly separable. To weaken interactions between them, graphite must be oxidized, which is usually accomplished with the Hummers method. A powder obtained in that way – graphite oxide – is subsequently suspended in water and placed in an ultrasonic cleaner. The ultrasounds exfoliate oxidized graphene sheets from each other and the resulting colloid contains single graphene oxide flakes with diameter of about 300 nanometers.
The researchers from the IPC PAS and the IRI used graphene oxide manufactured at Materials Science Division in North East Institute of Science and Technology (NEIST) in Dispur, India. "One-atom-thick graphene oxide colloids were a good starting material, but numerous oxygen-containing functional groups became a real difficulty. The problem was that they changed dramatically the physico-chemical properties of the material. Instead of an excellent conductor we had… an insulator", explains Kamińska.
Interdisciplinary Research Institute (IRI)