Scientists Produce Graphene, Known For Its Strength And Electrical Conductivity, With A Kitchen Blender

A Simple Way To Extract Graphene Has Been Discovered In The Kitchen With A Blender

By Samantha Olson on April 23, 2014 3:13 AM EDT

Scientists Discover How To Create Graphene In Kitchen Blender
Scientists use kitchen blender to create strong, flexible graphene in a scalable and cost-effective method. (Photo: <a href=”http://www.shutter / Samantha Olson)

A research team led by Jonathan Coleman at Trinity College Dublin and funded by the UK-based firm Thomas Swan devised a way to create homemade graphene with the use of a common household appliance-a kitchen blender. Graphene is thin, flexible but strong and electrically conductive material that may be able to outperform other production options, according to its publication in Nature Materials.

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"It is a significant step forward towards cheap and scalable mass production," says Andrea Ferrari, an expert on graphene at the University of Cambridge, UK. "The material is of a quality close to the best in the literature, but with production rates apparently hundreds of times higher."

Graphene is a one-atom-thick sheet of carbons atoms arranged in a honeycomb structure that have to be in a near-perfect hexagonal pattern. It is about 100 ties stronger than steel and conducts electricity better than copper. When layers of graphene are stacked on top of one another and mixed with clay, it produces the lead in pencils.

The Irish-UK team poured a graphite powder mixture with water and dishwashing liquid into a blender at high speed. It is advised not to try this at home because not only will it most likely not work because of the recipe's delicate balance, but also because you won't be able to use your blender for food any longer.

The blender technique produced small, micrometer-sized flakes of graphene that were on average four or five layers thick. The flakes were suspended in the water after blending and had no apparent defects, which means it could yield high electrical conductivity.

In addition to its potential uses in electronics, graphene may have a futre in water treatment, oil spill cleanups and even in the production of thinner condoms. Coleman suggests that the graphene flakes could used as a filler in plastic drinks bottles, which would increase their strength and decrease the demand and production of plastic products.

Coleman believes the technique is effective because the blender creates enough shear force in the liquid sufficient to pull the carbon atom sheets from the graphite chunks "as if sliding cards from a deck."

High-quality graphene is difficult to produce with the current market's methods. The competition on a large scale but the quality doesn't compare well. It can be purchased on line and many in store items are sold with defects, chemicals and a decrease in conductivity. "Most of the companies are selling stuff that I wouldn't even call graphene," says Coleman.

Making graphene was a complicated process until now. Some such methods are chemical vapor deposition, which involves turning carbon into a vapor that collects on a surface, heating silicon carbide (SiC) to leave the pure carbon or graphene behind, and tearing off sheets of single carbon atoms from blocks of graphite, according to The Christian Science Monitor.

With this method, Coleman and his team were able to make the graphene in a simplified method without ultrasound. This meant a cut to the energy costs and although the graphene sheets are tiny, this process produces a lot of them. And unlike other current-market processes, if some of the carbon doesn't make the perfect sheets, it can be easily filtered out and put through the process again.

However, the quality of the blender-made flakes is not as high as those who first discovered graphene using Scotch Tape to peel of single sheets of atoms from graphite. In 2004, Graphene's discovery was published in the journal of Science by Manchester University researchers Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov who shared the Nobel Prize in Physics, according to BBC News.

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