Scientists from Scotland have come up with a much cheaper method for the production of graphene. Their findings are hoped to fuel other research works entailing the creation of innovative devices. The paper is available in Scientific Reports.
The advantages of graphene – strong, light, flexible, able to conduct heat and electricity – seem to be outweighed by its expensive production methods. This might soon change though: scientists from University of Glasgow in Scotland have recently generated large, high-quality graphene sheets whose processing is 100 times cheaper than other techniques.
The current most common way of manufacturing graphene is the chemical vapour deposition method whereby reactants in the gaseous state are converted to a film of graphene onto a surface called the substrate. The latter is made of platinum, nickel, or titanium carbide – all expensive such that industries cannot find it to be feasible.
The researchers from the University of Glasgow countered this predicament by using copper foils which are both cheap and made on a large-scale. Otherwise, current methods of using processed copper are also costly.
It was found that copper foils were smooth enough to give high-quality one-atom-thick graphene sheets. Furthermore, these sheets had optical electrical properties that would make them ideal for transistors.
“The commercially-available copper we used in our process retails for around $1 per square metre, compared to around $115 for a similar amount of the copper currently used in graphene production,” says the lead author, Ravinda Dahiya. “This more expensive form of copper often required preparation before it can be used, adding further to the cost of the process.”
“Our process produces high-quality graphene at low-cost, taking us one step closer to creating affordable new electronic devices with a wide range of applications, from the smart cities of the future to mobile healthcare.”
The findings of the new study will allow other researchers to use graphene for the making of innovative materials, specially in the field of medicine.
“Much of my own research is in the field of synthetic skin. Graphene could help provide an ultra-flexible, conductive surface which could provide people with prosthetics capable of providing sensation in a way that is impossible for even the most advanced prosthetics today,” adds Dahiya. “It’s a very exciting discovery and we’re keen to continue our research.”