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Scientists Create Graphene From Soybean Oil

5 February 2017, 4:00 pm EST By Luan Chan Tech Times
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Scientists from the CSIRO successfully produce graphene using cheaper materials and less dangerous methods, making the material more accessible for clean energy and commercial applications.  ( CSIRO )

Physicists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov discovered graphene back in 2004.

The scientific community has since been quick to prove that the nanofabric may just be one of the biggest breakthroughs of the 21st century because of its amazing properties. Less than a decade later, in 2010, both physicists were presented the Nobel Prize for their discovery of the miracle material.

Graphene: Superconductor Stronger Than Steel

Graphene can be considered the holy grail of electronics and for good reason: the nanomaterial is a superconductor that is 200 times stronger than steel and can be used for greatly improving transistors, batteries, computers, and solar panels, among other things, including fashion.

However, the material is very expensive to produce so scientists from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) devised a way to produce graphene from a common household material: soybean oil.

Dong Han Seo and his colleagues tirelessly worked at the CSIRO laboratories under strict rules to be able to develop graphene safely, but it is those same strict rules that enabled his team to work around the usual method of creating graphene.

What Is CSIRO's GraphAir?

Typically, graphene could only be made in a highly controlled environment and using highly explosive gases, but the team's limitation for the sake of safety led them to develop the "GraphAir" technology.

"Our GraphAir technology results in good and transformable graphene properties, comparable to graphene made by conventional methods," study co-author Dr. Dong Han Seo said.

The team's GraphAir technology reduced the time-consuming process of making graphene into a single step: heating up soybean oil until it breaks down into the carbon-building units that are vital in creating graphene films. Those units get deposited on a nickel foil that is rapidly cooled once removed from the heat. This produces a nanometer graphene film about 80,000 times thinner than human hair.

What is more remarkable is that the team was also successful in creating graphene films using waste oils, making the miracle material not only a wonder for science but for the environment as well.

"Our unique technology is expected to reduce the cost of graphene production and improve the uptake in new applications," study co-author Dr. Zhao Jun Han said.

Possible Applications Of Soybean Oil Graphene

The CSIRO is now looking to partner with industries that could benefit from graphene to find new uses for the superconductor.

Mobile technology will surely benefit from this new development, especially after a team of scientists from the University of Central Florida (UCF) developed a super capacitor battery that could last for days after being charged for only a few seconds.

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