Researchers created graphene from soybean oil in a simple one-step process

Soybean oil to reduce cost of graphene production

Image credit: CSIRO

Graphene has been created from soybean oil in a cheap single-step process that could facilitate commercial uptake of the wonder material.

A team of researchers from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has devised a manufacturing process that requires neither high temperatures nor a highly controlled vacuum environment.

The process, described in an article in the latest issue of the journal Nature Communications, allows graphene to be synthesised in ambient air.

“This ambient-air process for graphene fabrication is fast, simple, safe, potentially scalable, and integration-friendly,” said Dr Zhao Jun Han, who led the team behind the GraphAir process.

“Our unique technology is expected to reduce the cost of graphene production and improve the uptake in new applications.”

The starting material in the process is ordinary soybean oil – a renewable, abundant natural material. The oil is broken down with heat into a range of carbon building blocks, from which graphene can be synthesised.

The team also transformed other types of renewable and even waste oils, such as leftovers from barbecues or cooking, into graphene films.

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

“We can now recycle waste oils that would have otherwise been discarded and transform them into something useful.”

Graphene, a material consisting of a single layer of carbon atoms, was first isolated by a team of Manchester University researchers in 2004.

Its extraordinary properties, including exceptional strength and light weight, electric conductivity and flexibility have been hailed by researchers as having significant potential for future technology applications.

It is believed that once its production becomes commercially viable, graphene will revolutionise electronics design, leading to miniature devices with extreme durability, more efficient photovoltaics and batteries, as well as biomedical applications.

Until now, the high cost of graphene production has been the major roadblock to its commercialisation.

CSIRO, which cooperated on the project with researchers from the University of Sydney, University of Technology Sydney and the Queensland University of Technology, are currently looking for industrial partners to develop applications for their process.

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