Is Carbyne lighter than graph

Cheap graphene made from soybean oil

Graphene is considered to be the wonder material of the 21st century, unfortunately it is still very expensive to manufacture. Australian researchers have now found a way to produce the extremely thin material cheaply from soybean oil.

Graphene consists of just one layer of carbon atoms that are arranged in a special structure. The material is so promising and versatile that the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded for it in 2010: It is very light, but incredibly stable - the strongest known material, but still flexible. It also conducts electrical impulses particularly efficiently.

Expensive but versatile

The possible applications of graphene are numerous: New types of water filters, lighter aircraft components, wafer-thin but extremely resistant protective layers, biomedical implants or extremely light batteries with a significantly higher capacity than today could become possible. If only graphene could be produced cheaply enough. The price of graphs depends on the quality. A wafer-thin sheet of paper around ten centimeters in diameter costs around 700 euros today. Reducing the cost of the material is currently a major goal of graphene research.

A team from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), a government research institution in Australia, is now making people sit up and take notice with such a possibility. In the study, the researchers write that they have focused on cheap liquids or biomass that contain carbon, such as soybean oil, because of the low cost and low processing requirements. Another cost factor that the researchers wanted to eliminate: Most methods rely on vacuum or compressed gases to produce graphene, which is associated with high costs and safety requirements. The Australians succeeded in producing graphene in an indoor climate.

Boil graph

In addition to soybean oil, you need a quartz tube, a high-performance oven, nickel foil and about half an hour. Soybean oil and nickel, which acts as a catalyst, enter the tube and when heated, the long carbon chains dissolve from the oil to form gaseous carbon components at almost 300 degrees Celsius. At the target temperature of 800 degrees Celsius - when most of the oil has already evaporated - the individual carbon atoms continue to dissolve and land in the nickel mass.

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During the subsequent rapid cooling on a metal foil, the atoms separate from the mass and crystallize into the graphene structure, thus forming a graphene film. The Australians believe that the method could bring the price down to a tenth.

Explosive mass production

The researchers at CSIRO are not taking the path to commercially available and competitive supermaterial graphene alone. Another method was recently introduced by a research group at Kanas State University.

Graphene is created by the controlled detonation of a gas mixture that contains carbon. The blasting may sound a little more time-consuming than the method with soybean oil, but this method is particularly profitable. Either way, the price of graphs is likely to fall soon and quickly. This makes real mass-market applications at least somewhat more possible.

Isabella Ferenci, Ö1 Science

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