A team of Irish scientists have found a novel and cost effective method of mass producing graphene. The new technique could be used to create large amounts of graphene without breaking the bank.

The new method was discovered by researchers from the materials in science lab Amber in Trinity College Dublin. Scientists have been trying to find a method of efficiently mass producing graphene for years now. However, this advanced material is very difficult to manufacture, especially when taking into consideration both quality and consistency.

Graphene is called a crystallin allotrope of carbon, which basically means that the carbon atoms are densely arranged in a hexagonal pattern. However, the most remarkable thing about graphene is the fact that it is a very good conductor of both electricity and heat. Moreover, it is a light and almost transparent material that is also very strong. This advanced material can also be used for a wide variety of applications from building better batteries to manufacturing more advanced touchscreens.

"This shows how industry and academic collaboration can lead to research of the highest calibre, with real commercial applications," said AMBER physicist Jonathan Coleman. "This paper combines basic and applied research and contains elements of physics, chemistry, materials science and chemical engineering."

Different organizations and institutions around the world have been racing against each other to develop an industrial manufacturing process to create large amounts of high quality graphene. With every year that passes, the demand for graphene is climbing steadily and experts say that the market for this type of material will be worth around $100 million within the next 4 years alone.

"It brings together academic expertise with the wealth of experience provided by Dr Keith Paton, Thomas Swan's researcher who is working with us here on-site in AMBER. Graphene has been identified as a life changing material and to be involved at this stage of development is a wonderful achievement," added Coleman.

While the researchers spend countless hours trying to develop their method, the end-result seems deceptively simple. The process starts out with plain old graphite. While graphite can be formed into layers, isolating a single layer of graphite can be difficult. To do this, the researchers used water to separate the graphite sheets. The researchers dumped the graphite into water and excited the mixture using a spinning rotor. The layers then separate from each other resulting in graphite. Scientists then added a special compound to keep the layers from sticking back together again. The entire process is so simple that Coleman and his team were able to demonstrate how it worked using a normal household blender. The researchers published their findings in the online journal Nature Materials.

"Professor Coleman's discovery shows that Ireland has won the worldwide race on the production of this 'miracle material'. This is something that USA, China, Australia, UK, Germany and other leading nations have all been striving for and have not yet achieved," said Sean Sherlock, the Minister for Research and Innovation in Ireland.

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