Mixing a little dry ice and a simple industrial process cheaply mass-produces high-quality graphene nanosheets, researchers in South Korea and Case Western Reserve University report.
Graphene, which is made from graphite, the same stuff as "lead" in pencils, has been hailed as the most important synthetic material in a century. Sheets conduct electricity better than copper, heat better than any material known, are harder than diamonds yet stretch.
Scientists worldwide speculate graphene will revolutionize computing, electronics and medicine but the inability to mass-produce sheets has blocked widespread use.
A description of the new research will be published the week of March 26 in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The story is embargoed until Monday, March 26, 2012 at 3 p.m. U.S. Eastern time
Jong-Beom Baek, professor and director of the Interdisciplinary School of Green Energy/Advanced Materials & Devices, Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology, Ulsan, South Korea, led the effort.
"We have developed a low-cost, easier way to mass produce better graphene sheets than the current, widely-used method of acid oxidation, which requires the tedious application of toxic chemicals," said Liming Dai, professor of macromolecular science and engineering at Case Western Reserve and a co-author of the paper.
Researchers placed graphite and frozen carbon dioxide in a ball miller, which is a canister filled with stainless steel balls. The canister was turned for two days and the mechanical force produced flakes of graphite with edges essentially opened up to chemical interaction by carboxylic acid formed during the milling.
The carboxylated edges make the graphite soluble in a class of solvents called protic solvents, which include water and methanol, and another class called polar aprotic solvents, which includes di
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Case Western Reserve University