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Simple, Safer Process Developed to Synthesize Graphene

Graphene molecular illustration (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)

Graphene molecular illustration (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)

Scientists at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb say they have discovered a simple method for producing high yields of graphene, a carbon nanostructure with advanced capabilities, including as a potential platform for the next generation of integrated circuits. The NIU team’s findings appear online in the Journal of Materials Chemistry (free subscription required).

Graphene is a two-dimensional material, comprised of a single layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice. The material exhibits high crystal and electronic qualities, including high electron mobility, which increases its potential in high-speed nanoscale devices (1 nanometer equals 1 billionth of a meter).

Earlier this month, scientists at IBM demonstrated an electronic integrated circuit built on graphene rather than traditional silicon. That circuit operated as a broadband radio-frequency mixer at frequencies up to 10 gigahertz.

The NIU researchers developed a new method for producing graphene that simplifies the process and reduces the cost of producing the material in larger quantities. The method involves converting carbon dioxide directly into graphene — of less than 10 atoms in thickness — by burning pure magnesium metal in dry ice.

The team had originally planned to produce single-wall carbon nanotubes and discovered the few-layer graphene almost by accident. “It’s a very simple technique that’s been done by scientists before, says NIU postdoc Amartya Chakrabarti and first author of the journal paper. “But nobody actually closely examined the structure of the carbon that had been produced.”

Chemistry professor Narayan Hosmane notes, “The synthetic process can be used to potentially produce few-layer graphene in large quantities,” adding that earlier synthesis methods involved hazardous chemicals and tedious techniques. “This new method is simple, green and cost-effective,” says Hosmane.

Read more: Graphene-Based Material Developed with Teflon Properties

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