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Simple and Scalable Means to Create Graphene Discovered


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Since its discovery, graphene has been of great interest with its many amazing properties. One issue surrounding the material though has been the challenge to produce it. By a combination of accidental discoveries, researchers at the California Institute of Technology have found a new way to produce graphene that involves one step, and works at room temperature.

The story for the Caltech researchers starts in 2012 when they were trying to grow graphene in a way described in a paper. This method involved heating copper to act as a catalyst, but it was not until the copper was accidentally heated the copper foil for longer than intended that any graphene was made. Then it was realized that the method requires the surface of the copper must be free of copper oxide for it to work. To clean the oxide from the copper, the researchers turned to using hydrogen plasma where another accident led to graphene production. Graphene is a form of carbon, and the source of the carbon in the original method was methane. When working with the hydrogen plasma, methane was leaking from two valves into the area, allowing graphene to grow.

More conventional means of producing graphene involve temperatures as high as 1000 ºC and multiple steps, but this method works at room temperature and is a single step, which should allow it to scale up for large-scale applications. An analysis of the graphene also revealed it to be of very high quality because it does not suffer from heat-induced defects and the graphene grows in lines that form seamless sheets.

Source: California Institute of Technology

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