Scientists can make graphene out of just about anything with carbon -- even Girl Scout Cookies.
Graduate students in the Rice University lab of chemist James Tour proved it when they invited a troop of Houston Girl Scouts to their lab to show them how it's done.
The work is part of a paper published online today by ACS Nano. Rice scientists described how graphene -- a single-atom-thick sheet of the same material in pencil lead -- can be made from just about any carbon source, including food, insects and waste.
The cookie gambit started on a dare when Tour mentioned at a meeting that his lab had produced graphene from table sugar.
"I said we could grow it from any carbon source -- for example, a Girl Scout cookie, because Girl Scout Cookies were being served at the time," Tour recalled. "So one of the people in the room said, 'Yes, please do it. ... Let's see that happen.'"
Members of Girl Scouts of America Troop 25080 came to Rice's Smalley Institute for Nanoscale Science and Technology to see the process. Rice graduate students Gedeng Ruan, lead author of the paper, and Zhengzong Sun calculated that at the then-commercial rate for pristine graphene -- $250 for a two-inch square -- a box of traditional Girl Scout shortbread cookies could turn a $15 billion profit.
"That's a lot of cash!" said an amazed Sydney Shanahan, a member of the troop.
A sheet of graphene made from one box of shortbread cookies would cover nearly 30 football fields, Sun said.
The experiment was a whimsical way to make a serious point: that graphene -- touted as a miracle material for its toughness and conductivity since its discovery by Nobel Prize-winning scientists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov in 2004 -- can be drawn from many sources.
To demonstrate, the researchers subsequently tested a range of materials, as reported in the new paper, including chocolate, grass, polystyrene plastic, in
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