Now, make graphene in your kitchen with soap and blender

Written by PTI | London | Updated: Apr 21 2014, 21:00pm hrs
Scientists have found a surprisingly simple recipe that can allow for mass production of the wonder material graphene, using just soap and a blender, right in your kitchen.

This recipe is now the easiest way to mass-produce pure graphene - sheets of carbon just one atom thick, researchers said.

The material has been predicted to revolutionise the electronics industry, based on its unusual electrical and thermal properties.

But until now, manufacturing high-quality graphene in large quantities has proved difficult the best lab techniques manage less than half a gram per hour, 'New Scientist' reported.

Jonathan Coleman of Trinity College Dublin in Ireland and his team were contracted by Thomas Swan, a chemicals firm based in Consett, UK.

From previous work the team knew that it is possible to shear graphene from graphite, the form of carbon found in pencil lead. Graphite is essentially made from sheets of graphene stacked together like a deck of cards, and sliding it in the right way can separate the layers.

The team put graphite powder and a solvent fluid in a laboratory mixer and set it spinning. Analysis with an electron microscope confirmed that they had produced graphene at a rate of about 5 grams per hour.

To find out how well the process could scale, they tried out different types of motors and solvents. They discovered that a kitchen blender and Fairy Liquid, a UK brand of dishwashing liquid, would also do the job.

However, Coleman said people may not want to try this at home. The exact amount of dishwashing liquid required depends on the properties of the graphite powder, such as the size distribution of the grains and whether any materials other than carbon are contaminating the sample.

These can only be determined using advanced lab equipment. The method also does not convert all the graphite to graphene, so the two materials have to be separated afterwards.

The team's calculations suggest the technique is scalable to industrial levels - a 10,000 litre vat with the right motor could produce 100 grams per hour.